Second Acts

A little while back I came across a couple of articles in the New York Times about it being never too late for a new life, a new career, a new relationship. These articles were part of a series titled “Its Never Too Late“, that carried accounts of people who embarked on brand new ventures at a late age. A woman who learned to swim at 64, a woman who returned to her cello at 62 after a gap of some 40 years, a woman who took her first riding lesson at 63, a woman who got married at 98, and so on.

These narratives of present day “ordinary” people also harked back to the past, presenting examples of inspiring second acts undertaken by renowned artists. One of these exemplars was Henri Matisse, and the other was Martha Graham. I have written about both of them in my earlier post on Mars Conjunct Outer Planets, where I showed how the aspect of Pluto to Mars in the natal horoscope can promote resurrection and revitalization on the heels of a severe downturn in life, very much in the nature of Phoenix rising from the ashes. In this post, I want to continue their stories by looking at the transit activity on their natal horoscopes at the time of such a turnaround with the launch of a second act.

French artist Henri Matisse rose from the dead after cancer surgery in 1941, when he was more than 70 years old. The surgery left him chair- and bed-bound. Painting and sculpture had become physical challenges. So he turned to a new type of medium, that of paper cut-outs, which he successfully pursued for several years, until his death at the age of 84. Here’s Matisse’s transit chart for a randomly chosen date of March 15, 1941 around the time of his surgery:

Note the transiting Saturn at the top of the chart, right next to the MC. The MC is the point of personal and professional aspiration. It’s very often triggered when there is a major change in status or life direction, and a Saturn transit to the MC will manifest in no uncertain terms.

Martha Graham danced well into her 70s, finally retiring in 1969, around the age of 75. Here’s the transit chart for June 1, 1969:

Once again, note the transiting Saturn in the 12th house of Graham’s chart. Often, Saturn in the 12th house indicates a stepping back from professional or public life due to various reasons. One of the reasons is issues with health. (The 12th house is implicated especially when there is hospitalization.)

All of these Saturn-in-12th house markers appeared in Graham’s life. After she retired, she sank into deep depression. She ate very little, drank too much, and lost the will to live. She was in hospital for a long time most of it in a coma.

But in 1972, she climbed out of the depression, stopped drinking, and went on to choreograph many new ballets and revivals, carrying on until 1990, when she was 95 years old. Here’s her transit chart for mid-1972, around the time she resurrected her life and career:

Saturn has transited into the 1st house. The 1st house is the house of birth, led by the ascendant which marks the first breath. And Saturn transiting into the 1st house often indicates a move toward self-improvement, a “redo” of the body and health, a jump start of the personal or professional life. Which is exactly what happened with Graham. She got a new lease on life, and rode it for the next two decades.

Eerily enough, in both cases of resurrection, transiting Saturn is conjunct natal Jupiter and natal Pluto. Both Matisse and Graham have a Jupiter-Pluto conjunction in their natal charts, and transiting Saturn triggered this conjunction and forced a manifestation of the joint energy. Pluto is the capacity for transformation and Jupiter expands, so the conjunction is a powerhouse of transformative energy.

Saturn transiting an angle is always a potent symbol of crossing a threshold. When it happens in early adulthood, it is a marker of finding one’s place in the world : the first job, the marriage, the birth of a child , striking out on one’s own, etc. When it happens later in life, it can come with a great opportunity for a second act, but not without some effort.