In 1988, Michael Jackson finally left home – the California mansion he shared with other members of the Jackson clan – and moved into his very own honky chateau, a 2,700 acre ranch that he promptly renamed ‘Neverland’. Calling his huge estate after Peter Pan’s world at first seemed just another of the superstar’s eccentricities, along with his surgical masks, oxygen chambers and menagerie of pets.
In fact, Jackson was telling the world how he saw himself; as Peter Pan, ‘the boy who wouldn’t grow up’ as his Edwardian creator, J.M. Barrie, put it, though Jackson’s vision of Peter undoubtedly arrived from Disney’s cartoon of the tale, in which Peter is a pre-adolescent elfin with a retrousee nose, a physical feature Michael would emulate through plastic surgery.
Neverland became a world of free fairground rides, free candy stores, and a steady stream of young friends – ‘Lost Boys’ indeed – who would visit, stay over and, in special cases, sleep in Michael’s bed. When stories emerged about Michael’s sleeping arrangements, he insisted his innocence, responding, as he had to widespread rumours that he was gay, that he was ‘a virgin saving himself for marriage’.
Jackson was, and is, indeed a Virgin, being born with the Sun in the sign of Virgo, the seventh of nine children. By tradition, Virgo is the sign of the fussy perfectionist, the hard-worker who frets about health, diet, cleanliness and order, a list that certainly applies to the germ-fearing, hyper-anxious Jackson.
Virgo’s qualities are amplified by the presence of the power planet Pluto next to Michael’s Sun, and by the Moon being in Virgo’s partner sign of Pisces – appropriately for a pop werewolf, Michael was born at a full Moon. The Sun and Moon, the two most important planets in a birth chart, are thus pulled between practical Virgo and artistic Pisces, between control and escapism.
Pluto, the ruler of the underworld in ancient myth, provides a dark undercurrent to Michael’s identity. Pluto is about power, often of a chilling kind – this is the planet of dictators and the immensely wealthy (’plutocrats’), as well as sex abusers and the abused (in myth, Pluto abducted Persephone to the underworld and raped her). It’s a planet of manipulation and dark secrets.
A glance at Michael’s birth chart might have alerted many people who were fooled by Michael’s goofy, child-like façade to the fact that he is also a ruthless businessman who astutely built a $400m fortune. When Paul McCartney boasted to Jackson of how many song catalogues he owned, he never imagined that Jackson would shortly afterwards buy the Beatles’ catalogue for $48m and exploit it by selling the Fabs’ songs as advertising jingles.
The parents who entrusted their sons to Jackson’s care might also have dwelt on Pluto’s sinister character. Whether or not Michael’s childhood included sexual abuse, it certainly involved a domineering father who was given to beating his sons. Likewise, when the Jacksons were on the road, the young Michael was exposed to the sexual promiscuity of his father and elder brothers. Not until 1993, following a $20m legal action against Michael for sexually abusing a minor (a charge later withdrawn), did the sordid secrets of both he and the Jackson family start to emerge amid a blitz of divorces, sibling rivalries being settled, and former servants spilling the beans.
Other configurations in Jackson’s birth chart show how he has haplessly acted out the archetypal energies represented by the planets: his bleak childhood (Saturn square Moon), his sensitivity to criticism while being unaware of others’ sensitivities (Mars square Venus), his escapist fantasies (Jupiter conjunct Neptune) and his pursuit of perfection through plastic surgery (Chiron opposite Venus). But this is just astrological language describing what is now obvious to all. What of Jackson’s recent troubles and his future?
The raids on Neverland on 18 November 2003 that resulted in his trial earlier this year coincided with the transit of Pluto – that planet again – at a crucial and karmic point in Jackson’s chart. (1) Because Pluto is so distant and its orbit around the Sun so slow, it hovered over Jackson like an avenging angel all the way through to his trial. Simultaneously, Michael’s Virgo Sun was also opposed by the throne-toppling planet, Uranus (2). Luckily for Jackson, his chart this year is under the helpful influence of Jupiter, the planet of luck and law. He avoided jail, but the damage done to his reputation is permanent. He can never go back to being ‘The King of Pop’.
Jackson’s position remains perilous. Although Pluto has moved on, other planets suggest the one-time Thriller has a none too thrilling time ahead. His health is the first issue under scrutiny. His highly strung Virgo disposition has already taken a pounding by the lengthy trial. This autumn the temptation is to overtax his system (3), probably in an attempt to finish a new album to allay his current financial troubles. Secondly, despite being brought face to face with outside reality by the trial, Jackson’s artistic and financial judgment looks awry, his capacity for self-deluding fantasy intact (4).
Money is not the real concern, however; Jackson’s ownership of the Beatles’ song catalogue, now valued at over $1bn, ensures that. He may, against his will, be forced to sell it.
Further challenges to Jackson’s physical and mental health arrive in spring 2006, when he may be forced to confront the source of his mental problems – his dysfunctional family and abnormal childhood. He has also to beware of any involvement with drugs. (5)
This difficult planetary picture lasts through to the winter of 2007/8, when Jackson reaches a showdown moment, signalled by two very different planets. The first is Saturn, planet of maturity, passing across Michael’s Sun; the last time this happened, in late 1978, he made Off The Wall, the album that established him as a solo star and musical innovator, rather than a teen pin-up.(6) Whether he can conjure up a ground-breaking album this time remains to be seen; after all, he no longer has producer Quincy Jones supervising.
The simultaneous arrival of Uranus, the disruptor, on Michael’s Piscean Moon is even more significant, suggesting that before 2008 he will be forced or choose to sell his adored but now tarnished Neverland. Since the Moon represents family, another possibility that is that Jackson’s two children will be taken away from him. More likely, given Jackson’s cinematic history, is that he will make a biopic of his own life. (7) If the 50 year old Jackson has acquired any self-knowledge, it could be one amazing film; more probably, it will be a tedious exercise in self-righteous justification of his compulsive behaviour.
1. Transit Pluto conjunct natal Saturn, January, May and November 2003.
2. Transit Uranus opposite natal Sun, May and July 2004, February 2005.
3 . Transit Mars stations on natal Mars in late September,2005, and conjuncts natal Mars again in late January, 2006.
4. Transit Jupiter conjunct natal Jupiter/Neptune in October/November 2005.
5. Transit Neptune conjunct Chiron, April and July 2006, and February 2007.
6. Transit Saturn conjunct natal Sun October 1987 and October 2007.
7. Transit Uranus conjunct natal Moon April and September 2007 and February 2008.