Club of 27
Birth 20 February, 1967, Aberdeen, WA. Died April 5, 1994
Kurt Cobain had just turned 27 when he blew his brains out and, as his mother put it, ‘joined that stupid club’. Kurt’s mother had in mind the suicide club (to which two of Kurt’s uncles already belonged), but she might equally have been talking about the club of 27, whose members include several famous rock casualties. Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Brian Jones were all 27 when they died, and Gram Parsons was just a few weeks away from his 27th birthday.
For astrology, 27 is an age when several important planetary aspects arrive (*1), to be followed closely by the equally challenging period around 29 known as the ‘Saturn Return’, a point of reckoning after which both Gwen Stifani and Goldie have named albums.
For Cobain, his 27th birthday was especially uncomfortable, as Saturn – the planet of maturity and difficult lessons – was confronting him (*2). Kurt had always struggled to cope with Saturn’s transits, which coincided with the most painful periods of his life: at age eight, when his parents split (*3), at age ten, when he was sent to live with his father (*4), and at 14, when he was offloaded onto his grandparents (*5) and became a teenage stoner.
Cobain’s inability to handle life’s knocks is written clearly in his horoscope, which describes a man of unusual sensitivity. Born with his Sun and three other planets in the impressionable, poetic sign of Pisces, Cobain also had the other two water signs, Cancer and Scorpio, strongly accentuated in his birth chart. Water is the element of emotion and receptivity, and having eight of astrology’s ten planets in water signs describes an individual who can feel easily overwhelmed.
It’s a hugely creative planetary signature, but all too sensitive – Kurt should ideally have been sent off to a conservatory at age seven to be nurtured and protected. Instead, he was dosed up with ritanol for being a hyper-active kid, shunted between parents who didn’t understand or care for him, and confronted by trailer park culture in a remote logging town.
The water theme of Kurt’s horoscope was vividly played out in Nirvana’s music, from the famous swimming baby on the Teen Spirit cover, through to imagery like ‘aqua seafoam shame’. Kurt’s triangle of water planets made him a prisoner of his own emotions ‘locked inside a heart-shaped box’ as he put it on In Utero. It’s no surprise that the love of his life, Courtney Love, was born with both Sun and Moon in the sign of Cancer, matching Kurt’s own Moon in Cancer – theirs was certainly a match made in the stars.
Kurt’s horoscope was not without strength, however. The Moon, representing emotions and the subconscious, is in its own sign of Cancer. This sign also rules the stomach, and it’s noteworthy that Kurt suffered from persistent stomach pain – indeed, he said he sang ‘from the stomach’. Mars, representing passion, ego and lust, is in its own sign of Scorpio. Remember, however, that Mars is the sign of the warrior – Kurt loved guns – and that Scorpio is the sign of self-destruction. (*6)
The chart’s other emphasis is on the two slow-moving planets Uranus and Pluto. These planets, which are way out in the solar system and take 84 years and 248 years respectively to orbit the Sun, meet only once every 120 years. When they do, sparks fly. The mid-Sixties was a time of upheaval, when the spirit of rebellion was in the air (just as it had been the last time these two planets met, in 1850). Exact in 1966, this conjunction ran from 1962-1968 – this was the incendiary combination under which psychedelia was born (when the first group called Nirvana came into being!).
With this planetary combination exactly on the horizon at Kurt’s birth (the all important ‘ascendant’), it was as if Kurt had to play out its energies in his own personality. In effect, he became one of the carriers for what Carl Jung called ‘the collective’, a figurehead for his generation (the so-called ‘Generation X’). It was a huge weight to bear, and quite aside from his personal problems, one with which he struggled.
The final months of Kurt Cobain’s life saw several difficult planetary patterns. As mentioned before, the most important was Saturn, passing over his Pisces Sun, while at the time shot himself in the head, Mars, planet of impulse and injury, was right opposite his Pluto/Uranus combination.
Does that mean that his death was in some way an act of fate? Not at all. Astrology (at least, western astrology) insists on freewill, while showing us what kind of planetary ‘weather’ we might expect in our lives. In the last days and weeks of his life, Kurt made a lot of bad choices – checking out of the rehab clinic, heading back to his old drug buddies in Seattle, fooling around with guns. He made his own choices.
Kurt’s suicide note touches on several of the themes in his horoscope, particularly the feeling of being swept away, unable to find boundaries: ‘I still can’t get over the frustration, the guilt and empathy I have for everyone…I simply love people too much, so much that it makes me feel too fucking sad. The sad little, sensitive, unappreciative Pisces, Jesus man!’.
*1. The ‘progressed lunar return’ at 27 is a moment of emotional maturity. The planet Neptune also completes one third of its orbit around the horoscope, another marker of emotional maturity.
*2 Transiting Saturn passed Kurt’s Pisces Sun in February 1994
*3 Transiting Saturn conjunct natal Moon in August 1974 and again in February and April 1975.
*4 Transiting Saturn opposite natal Sun, September 1978
*5 Transiting Saturn opposite natal Saturn September 1980.
*6 Natal Mars is precisely trine natal Sun, an uncanny symbolic description of a bullet (Mars) to the head (Sun).