PD James – a quiet Leo with brutal streak


PD James, the crime writer, who was born on August 3 1920 7.59 am Oxford and died six years ago, was an understated Leo with her Sun Neptune conjunction in Leo and Venus Jupiter in Leo all in her hidden 12th house. What marks her chart out as suited to a walk on the dark side strewn with corpses and murder is a creative, private and ferocious Water Grand Trine of Mars North Node in intense and dark Scorpio trine Pluto trine Uranus, formed into a Kite by Uranus opposition Saturn. She was talented but harboured a fair number of demons though she possibly never admitted that even to herself.

She had a tricky childhood with her mother in a mental hospital by the time she was in her mid-teens, leaving her to bring up two younger siblings. Married at 21 to an army doctor, she found herself as the breadwinner when he returned from the war suffering from a mental breakdown, which eventually sent him to a psychiatric hospital. In a rare moment of openness she once said she had been exceptionally scared of him when he became unwell and he died young, perhaps from suicide. She never remarried but brought up her two daughters and eventually had five grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

Her first novel was published when she was 42 but she worked full time in the civil service, hospital administration and the forensic sciences before retiring at 60 to write full time. Latterly she became one of the great and the good, being a member of the House of Lords and sitting on endless committees, literary and otherwise.

In many ways her novels are more genteel than her chart, mainly upper-class perpetrators who strayed from the straight and narrow by circumstance rather than sadistic serial killers leaving a trail of blood and carnage behind them. She clearly leant on her Leo planets for her character and plots.

Though her chart is most similar to Patricia Cornwell who has a ruthless Mars opposition Pluto square Saturn.

James’  creative 5th harmonic is well aspected though strained. Her 21st writers’ harmonic is also notable.  Even more so is her ‘serial killers’ 18H – so the understated cruelty in her books was maybe more a generational factor than an innate tendency. She wrote what she though the market would accept.

11 thoughts on “PD James – a quiet Leo with brutal streak

  1. Virgoflake, yes you have good instincts. A couple of years ago by accident I stumbled into the Irish Bank in Dublin and there was a retrospective of their beloved Seamus Heany. It was 1.5 hrs later when I emerged, profoundly moved, by the direct hits he made on all he surveyed. The guard took one look at me and said “He has that effect on everyone”. Unfortunately there is no time of birth (13.4.39 at Castledawson, Ireland), but I couldn’t wait to set one up and settled for 7.13 pm (hard to start somewhere). His most focal planet was Neptune, trine Mars and Uranus, with the Sun/Sat conjunction making a biquintile to Nep, and Nep also opposing Venus/Jupiter in Pisces.
    Of course its likely the time is far from qccurate but basic astrology just shouts out that Neptune is the most important planet – and here it is demonstrated.
    Virgo rising is very self-critical and won’t find itself good enough often but the Jupiter on your Ma’s MC should have given her confidence in her 40’s etc to get stuck in – it’s not too late! I gave a journal to a lady as she was trying to tell her children her life story, which (because of the war) they didn’t want to hear….she has stacks of them now and writes every day – she is almost 90 but her children will know her story……

  2. Thanks Solaia, yet so many Virgos that I’ve known in allied health and mental health who have been incredibly brave advocating for others. Especially sun Virgo and Scorpio moon, although that also tends to show surgeons and finance directors, in my experience. What do you need from this water sign, do you think, that could help the Virgos? Bit of oomph from the fire signs perhaps? You’ve got so much to give. Keep going.

  3. I saw the Saturn in the first, Hugh. I also noticed the Pisces moon in the seventh.

    Interesting and enlightening post. Now I’m wondering about the significance of so many British female crime writers of her age.

    • I am only really familiar with Agatha Christie and PD James. Both share an almost clinical detachment to the analysis of murder, it’s motivation and its impact on the people involved with the event. With James this does not just cover the study of the physical nature of the crime but also the almost cold analysis of its affect on the emotional lives of the characters. Hard to imagine Dalgleish surrendering to his feelings in the unashamed almost uncontrolled way Ian Rankin’s detective does in his DI Rebus novels. It is not that Dalgleish does not have emotions but that he is wary of giving way to them. I wonder if this was something James felt herself. I suppose in her case it was a mixture of education, personal experience and career training. She seems to suspect that giving way to them might lead one out of an ordered existence, that it could cause an individual to walk across thin ice that might at any moment break beneath the feet engulfing them. The 7th house Moon in Pisces you noted would certainly typify someone who saw the emotions as a potential enemy dissolving the order that her cold earth bound Virgo Saturn seems to crave. Reading the books it seems that mental instability not death was what she feared. She makes occasional references in her writing including characters quoting the line from King Lear – “Let me not be mad “. As Marjorie so perceptively noted there was probably a lot of inner turmoil going on behind James public persona.

  4. Fascinating chart. Saturn in the First House and close the ascendant often signifies someone who has a difficult childhood often involving a parent who is absent or not there for them in some way. It also often suggest burdens and responsibilities from a young age. The plus side of the placement is these people often flower later in life. This certainly seems be the case with PD James. Saturn in Virgo would also apply discipline to writing and a drive to get the details correct. The risk would be an overwhelming desire for perfection. This would be tempered by her Sun/Neptune conjunction which is particularly powerful as the former is in its sign of domicile and the latter in the house it rules. It suggests a sensitivity to all those dark and hidden 12th House things. From her life experiences both at home and in her jobs PD James was very aware that madness and mayhem could so easily overwhelm an individual. The process is underlined by the Mars, Pluto, Uranus trine signifying the potential for those forces to break through the surface of the waters suddenly bringing violence and death. I wonder if her understated and measured novels are in some way an attempt to keep the chaos and darkness at bay. Interesting that the main protagonist in many of her novels is Detective Inspector Adam Dalgleish who seems to share so many of PD James qualities in being simultaneously both a grounded and acutely sensitive individual. Like so many police officers and investigators in crime fiction he has an almost talismanic quality as a man who confronts, orders and tames the unfathomable, the uncontainable and the uncontrollable.

  5. Thanks Marjorie, what a treat to have her chart analysed! Beginning astrologer here.

    I was looking for Gemini or Virgo for an author, but I think Mars conjunct the north node in the 3rd house would do the trick. Plus her Virgo ascendant.

    I don’t really understand about harmonics, but can see black moon Lilith in the 5th house in A wide square to chiron in the 8th,although they are 5 degrees apart so that may be too wide.

    That loaded 12th house! Ruler of the chart – mercury in 11th house of groups and ideals conjunct sun in 12th -hospitals, prisons. I can see how she would be a writer and how this plays out in her career in the civil service and hospitals.

    I appreciate these birth chart analyses – I’m learning a lot about astrology from them. Poor PD, what a childhood and early adulthood. I hope she found peace and emotional security in her later life.

    Now off to read about harmonics.

    • Have to comment here: Virgo is letterary, but also hypercritical. This is why very Virgo influenced authors sometimes struggle with long form. And when they become accomplished, they tend to suffer from writer’s block. Textbook case: George RR Martin with his “A Song Of Ice And Fire” “Game Of Thrones” is based on. He probably won’t finish the series now, because he kind of wrote himself in a corner with incredibly vivid and detailed setup, and can’t get over many of storylines being left open if he intends to finish this in two books or 1500 pages.

        • There’s quite a collection of Leo children’s authors, which perhaps reflects the 5th house playful nature of Leo? I collected a few names: Beatrix Potter; Edith Nesbit; Enid Blyton; P.L.Travers; J. K. Rowling. Also in the fantastical realms is Ray Bradbury, although his work isn’t for younger children of course. P.L.Travers creation, Mary Poppins, is quite a Virgo – “spit spot!” with some Leo pride and sense of adventure – “practically perfect in every way”. P.L.Travers had Moon and Mercury in Virgo, Sun and Venus in Leo, and a very mutable chart. ‘Mary Poppins’ seems to me to embody some of that.

        • Yes, one could add Leo Tolstoy here. There are loads of Virgo writers out there, obviously. This was more a comment on struggles they face writing. Virgo and Gemini are mutable signs, and Virgo is over critical and analytical, so these themes seem to play in lives of authors with significant Virgo, a lot. Leo Tolstoy quit writing novels early in his life, and Agatha Christie had that episode where she disappeared for weeks after her initial success. I think part of why she was later able to deliver two successful books a year is the genre format at the time allowed more “compact” narration. I don’t have a Christie book on shell to check this – which was bit of a surprice, TBO – but I read them all twice as a teenager, first in my native language and then in Finnish, and recall them being mostly just around 200 pages, in paperback format. Nowadays, publishers seem to expect a thriller to be around 420 pages, maybe 20-30 pages over or under.

          I’ve given a lot of thought into this, because of my personal experience on having what seems to indicate a “natural writer” chart, and feeling that way too, but somehow failing to turn it into profession or even serious pursuit. Interestingly, I’ve always viewed PD James as an inspiration, since her late start, and as a fellow Virgo Rising, think that probably had a lot to do with the feeling of having to be able to be seen as someone who does things “properly”.

          • My mother has a writer’s chart – Virgo rising, Jupiter conjunct MC in Gemini which is the focal point of a T-square and was a great storyteller when we children were growing up – she writes poetry, though not professionally. But she’s a Pisces Sun opposition Neptune in the 12th and it has made me wonder whether a Neptunian/12th house/Piscean element along with Virgo is more aligned with poetry rather than novel or novella writing. I associate a Gemini/Pisces emphasis with singer-songwriting but I feel a Virgo-Pisces emphasis is more connected to poetry.

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