That Algol, the destructive Fixed star, looms large in the foundation chart of Dignitas, the Swiss assisted suicide centre and its founder is hardly a surprise. But it is eerily accurate all the same.
Dignitas opened 25 years ago on 17 May 1998 when there was a Sun Mars conjunction in late Taurus conjunct Algol.
The driving force behind it, former journalist turned human rights lawyer Ludwig Minelli, 5 December 1932, has his healing planet Chiron conjunct the Dignitas Mars Sun in Taurus and Algol. All too apt.
Despite Algol’s malevolent reputation for nihilistic destruction it has another purpose which is to force us to face suffering and horror and not brush it aside. Death is the ultimate fear, which Dignitas tackles head on.
In the mythological backdrop of Algol’s story – it is represented by the snake-entwined head of Medusa, a sight so ugly that it turns onlookers to stone. The hero Perseus finds a strategy to allow the ugliness/horror to be faced without being destroyed by it and releases the creative power of Pegasus, the flying horse. He uses a mirrored shield to show him the reflection of the demon head rather than the actuality.
Although Algol is inevitably associated with earthy Taurus there is a curiously dual, pairing-of-opposites feel to the legend. The starting point is the battle between Neptune and Athena, which is what turned Medusa ugly initially – the god of the oceans and the watery unconscious battling it out with the goddess of the conscious mind, the bringer of laws and social order – Water versus Air. The mirror reflection is an image, ruled by Neptune, but also with the quality of Air, used to divert the repulsive physicality of Medusa – Neptune/Air versus Earth in its grossest form. The outcome of the successful battle over the ultimate dread is a flying horse – Air and Earth. With the image of Medusa now adorning Athena’s shield, acting as a protector.
Stretching a point – maybe death is when the elements come together with the exception of Fire which thinks its rightful place is on Olympus, the mount of immortality.
Ludwig Minelli has a crusading Sun Sagittarius on the focal point of a T Square to a Pisces North Node opposition Mars, Neptune South Node (Jupiter) in Virgo with a status-quo upsetting and reforming Uranus square Pluto. Ego-centric, scattergun in his approach.
He has spread his belief in the goodness of assisted dying, with 10 countries now deeming it legal and France about to catch up. Scotland and Jersey have pledged change. Switzerland is the only country in the world that allows non-residents to seek help with suicide and Dignitas has facilitated the death of more than 3,700 people. On average, one Briton makes their final journey there every fortnight. In the Netherlands, which has liberal laws, assisted dying runs at about 4 per cent; and in a recent Swiss vote there was support for the notion of assisted suicide in hospitals and care homes.
But Minelli is controversial in pushing further than most would find acceptable supporting euthanasia, where a doctor administers the poison; and for the very young.
Algol – an energy to be handled with caution.