Killer Instinct

I was watching a YouTube video on the last 3 minutes of Michael Jordan’s NBA career, a championship playoff game with the Chicago Bulls facing off the Utah Jazz. The end game is a nail biter with fortunes swinging to and fro. And then, in the dying seconds, MJ gets his hands on the ball and proceeds to sink a 2-pointer. Championship! Just before this deciding basket, the commentator says you won’t want the ball in Jordan’s hands at the end because he is such a killer.

We talk often about the killer instinct, or going for the kill. What exactly is the killer instinct? Oxford Languages defines killer instinct as “a ruthless determination to succeed or win”. Merriam-Webster describes it as “an aggressive tenacious urge for domination in a struggle to attain a set goal”. The Cambridge dictionary says it’s “a way of behaving in order to achieve an advantage for yourself without considering or worrying if it hurts other people”. It’s the instinct to finish off something swiftly and without mercy, to go for the jugular when presented the opportunity, to put the foot on the neck of the prey and hold it down until the prey is dead, to explore weakness in the opponent and exploit it ruthlessly.

Astrologers have typically viewed the aspectual link between Mars and Pluto in the chart as a proxy for the killer instinct. Pluto represents death or dealing death, and ruthlessness through its rulership of Scorpio. Mars represents action, the ability to “execute” on decisions. So a link between Mars and Pluto is that of acting to kill.

However, in looking at horoscopes of several “combatants” in sport, business, and elsewhere who are known for their killer instinct, the link between Mars and Pluto does not appear to be a constant. Let’s explore and see what we find.


Let’s start with Michael Jordan. In his horoscope, Mars is at 9 Leo 57 and Pluto is at 11 Vir 11, so there isn’t a major aspect between Mars and Pluto. When you look at the Moon, however, you see it at 10 Sag 0, making an extremely tight trine to Mars, within a 3 second orb. Could a Moon-Mars connection be indicative of the killer instinct?

The killer instinct is a requirement in competitive sport, especially in individual sports like tennis where it’s just you against your opponent. When you have your opponent cornered, you need to finish it off and win the point, quickly and decisively. All tennis players know this, but champions more than others can sense when it’s time to go for the kill and execute it to perfection.

What better example than Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who have engaged in a storied rivalry over the last two decades and have won 40 majors between them. Tennis champion Boris Becker gives them both a 10 out of 10 in killer instinct.

Federer’s horoscope shows Mars at 13 Can 56. Pluto is at 21 Lib 55, so there’s a square between Mars and Pluto with an 8-degree orb. If you were a classical astrologer, you would claim victory and move on. But then you would miss an interesting, and potentially crucial factor in the horoscope. The Moon is at 20 Sco 44. There’s an obvious connection to Mars in the form of a trine aspect with an orb of around 7 degrees. The other connection is less obvious, which is an exchange of signs: Mars is in Moon’s sign of Cancer, and Moon is in Mars’s sign of Scorpio by traditional rulership. This is what’s called a mutual reception. The mutual reception + aspect makes for an incredibly strong Mars-Moon connection. (One other thing to note is that the Sun is in Leo, the sign following Cancer, at 15.37)

In Nadal’s horoscope, Mars is at 22 Cap 56. Pluto is at 4 Sco 59, so there is no major aspect between Mars and Pluto. What about the Moon? It’s at 0 Tau 17. There is a square aspect between Mars and the Moon with an orb of just over 7 degrees, although it is out of sign since the Moon is not in Aries (cardinal, like Capricorn) but Taurus. The Sun is in Gemini at 12.47, which is one sign off from Cancer, the opposite sign to Capricorn which holds Mars.

When we speak of tennis greats with killer instinct, we can’t not bring Steffi Graf into the conversation. She won 22 major singles titles, the second-most in the Open Era, and third most of all time (behind Margaret Court with 24 titles, and Serena Williams with 24). In 1988, Graf became the first tennis player to win the Golden Slam by winning all four major singles titles and the Olympic gold medal in the same calendar year. And she is the only tennis player, male or female, to have won each major tournament at least four times.

It goes without saying that Graf had loads of talent to make it big. But being the first in the open era to win the most number of majors, and the first player to win the golden slam requires an extraordinary level of mental toughness and the killer instinct to finish off opponents time after time.

Mars is at 5 Sag 33 in Graf’s horoscope. Pluto is at 22 Vir 56. Being in the same mutable modality as Mars, there is the potential for a square aspect, but the orb would be extremely wide, over 17 degrees. On the other hand, looking at the Moon, we see it at 13 Gem 58, squaring the Mars with an orb of just over 8 degrees. So once again, the Moon-Mars connection. 

Another champion athlete who personifies the killer instinct is Tiger Woods. In golf, you are really competing with yourself, but the ability to close out a match still requires immense focus and desire to finish things off. Tiger’s horoscope has Mars at 17 Gem 33. Pluto is at 11 Lib 39, which makes for a trine between Mars and Pluto with an orb of 6 degrees. The Moon is at 22 Sag 23, opposite Mars with an orb of just over 5 degrees.


Let’s move on to the business world. Business is a competitive sport, and if you want to make it big, you need to execute on decisions swiftly and with convincingly. If you want to be number one, it becomes a zero sum game since you need to draw customers away from the competition, and keep it that way.

Bill Gates was one of the earliest and most obviously competitive businessmen in technology. He had very sharp instincts and knew exactly when to go for the kill in eliminating the competition. His horoscope has Mars at 10 Lib 7. Pluto is at 28 Leo 20, not in major aspect to Mars. The Moon, though, is at 8 Ari 14, opposite Mars with a very tight orb of 2 degrees. The connection is made even stronger by Moon’s placement in Mars’s sign.

Speaking of business people with the killer instinct, you can’t ignore Donald Trump. In an early interview in 1980, he was asked this: “Do you like having a tough skin? Do you think you have to have a killer instinct in order to be successful?” To which he replied: “I think that the world is made up of people with either killer instincts or without killer instincts, and the people that seem to emerge all the time … are the people that are competitive and driven and with a certain instinct to win.”

Back in 2015, the entrepreneur billionaire Mark Cuban said to understand Trump you need to understand the word killer. None of Trump’s rivals, Cuban added, can match the real-estate mogul’s killer instinct.

In Trump’s horoscope, Mars is at 26 Leo 46. Pluto, at 10 Leo 2 is in the same sign, but at a healthy distance of over 16 degrees. The Moon, however, is at 21 Sag 12, in a trine to Mars with an orb of just over 5 degrees. This trine is eerily similar to that in Michael Jordan’s chart where too the Moon is in Sagittarius and Mars is in Leo.


The killer instinct assumes a prominent place in politics as well. Being a politician means having the ability to focus and close on pushing through programs that might be met with stiff resistance or contrary agendas. Often it’s out and out war, and the killer instinct to lay the competition low is very much a requirement for success.

Former U.S. President Lyndon Johnson employed killer instinct through and through to establish the Civil Rights Act in 1964, the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction.

LBJ’s horoscope has Mars in 2 Vir 2. While Pluto at 25 Gem 41 is in the same mutable modality as Mars, you couldn’t really make a square aspect between Mars and Pluto, the orb is way out of range. The Moon is at 9 Vir 32, conjunct the Mars with an orb of a little over 7 degrees. There is a wrinkle to this, though. The birth time has a Rodden rating of C, meaning the accuracy is in question. It’s not clear how far off it might be from the exact birth time. On the other hand, the Moon moves roughly 1 degree every 2 hours, so even if the birth time was off by a whole 2 hours, the Moon would still be conjunct Mars.


Lastly, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth. I hadn’t at all thought of her as possessing a killer instinct. Until I happened to listen to a recent podcast by Kara Swisher in which she is talking to Tina Brown, former editor of Vanity Fair, and author of the forthcoming book about the British royal family, “The Palace Papers.” Here’s a telling exchange at one point in the conversation:

Brown: “She doesn’t like, obviously — who would — making decisions that someties make her family unhappy, but which she knows, actually, she’s going to have to do. So she ostriches for a while, and she comes out and she makes some swift, lethal decision. Once she’s decided to make that decision, she makes it.”

Kara: “So where do you think this quality comes from, being ruthless in this particular way? From her mother? From her father?”

Brown: “The monarchy is a ruthless business.”

In the Queen’s horoscope, Mars is at 20 Aqu 51. Pluto is at 12 Can 42, and is not in any major aspect with Mars. And the Moon? It is at 12 Leo 7, opposite Mars with an orb of under 9 degrees.

The Moon-Mars connection

The Moon is the most personal planet (body) in the horoscope. It is habit, instinct, the unconscious. A link between the Moon and any planet is like running a wire directly from that planet’s energy to the soul. That energy is expressed in its pure form, automatically, quickly, without question. So if Mars wants to act as killer, the most effective way for it is to hook up with the Moon via an aspect.

Ever wondered if you have that killer instinct? See if you have a Moon-Mars aspect in your horoscope!


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