Suffering and Success: The Astrology of Kurt Cobain


February 20, 2018 marked what would have been the 51st birthday of Kurt Cobain. The frontman of Nirvana brought alternative rock to the mainstream, giving millions of people a voice when they felt they had none. In analyzing Kurt’s chart to better understand him, we can see why he made such a great impact. His story may help us make a bigger impact as well.

Pisces Sun
Pisces is the most spiritualized, evolved last sign of the zodiac, appearing at the end of the 12 signs. Having gone around the whole zodiac wheel to experience many lifetimes, Pisces are sort of over it. Thus, they’re prone to escaping their earthy conditions — through art, music, drugs, et. al. — to achieve a state of nirvana: i.e., oblivion to care, pain or external reality.

Though a Pisces, Kurt’s Sun and Mercury shone in his Sixth House, the House of Service, an earthy house that is ruled by Pisces’ opposite sign, Virgo. This energy — analytical, painstaking, perfectionistic — was further emphasized by Kurt’s Virgoan ascendant, which pertains to his life approach. Though his talent may have come easy, Kurt worked and drove his band-members hard, requiring them at the beginning to practice at least five times a week. So much of what came out of the band came out of Kurt’s head — lyrics and music, yes, but also music video concepts and album cover artwork, a lot of which he drew himself. He was an extremely hard working individual; perhaps even a workaholic.

Pluto Opposing Mercury in the Sixth House
Workaholic tendencies can be magnified to the point of obsession when Pluto opposes Mercury in the Sixth House, as it did in Kurt’s case. Though on its own Mercury is at home in the Sixth House, it may challenge the native’s nerves and mental health, creating considerable inner pressure and tension. The view of the world can be rather bleak, seen as a place where disorder, pain and problems are rapidly multiplying. Social problems may have felt personal to Kurt with this placement, particularly with his Piscean Sun that feels emotionally connected to All.

Sun Trine Mars
Kurt’s Mars was at 1° Scorpio; his Sun, 1° Pisces, creating an exact trine (120° aspect) that gives heroic-like energy a clear path to Kurt’s Sun, his mode of expression. With so much energy, Kurt was labeled as hyperactive and rebellious, causing him to be shuffled around a lot throughout his childhood. Yet, it was this abundance of energy he channeled into work that allowed him to create so much: loved-ones recall leaving him when he was on the couch, only to return to find him having drawn a painting or written a song. Kurt was not just a creator; he had to create. Had he not created so much art in his life, perhaps he would have left us even sooner.

Grand Water Trine
Three planets (Jupiter, Neptune and Venus) form 120° aspects with each other, creating a nearly perfect equilateral triangle in the middle of Kurt’s chart. Such an aspect symbolizes special advantages Kurt enjoyed in his lifetime — a harmonious flow of water energy (talent, inspiration, artistry). When young, he could draw Mickey Mouse perfectly from memory; his grandfather had thought he had traced Mickey, but Kurt proved he didn’t by then drawing Donald Duck and Goofy on the spot. The water of this trine does not only grant the native incredible talent in art and music, but other “watery” traits, too —e.g., sensitivity, compassion and empathy — perhaps to a debilitating extent. Such a sensitive figure may have only felt good when the people around him felt good, which can lead to losing oneself in the process of trying to make others happy.

Saturn, Venus and Chiron in the Seventh House of Partnerships
Saturn represents challenges in the chart. Saturn in Kurt’s Seventh House of Partnerships likely made relationships feel heavy to him — as if they were a lot of work, and not the kind that came easy, like his art and music. Venus was also in his Seventh House: a great placement for being lucky in love, but within two degrees of Saturn and Chiron, representing woundedness, Venus’ blessings here are thwarted. Saturn cuts off energy; in this instance, severing or at least limiting the love energy from Venus. Likewise, with Chiron in his Seventh House, Kurt came into this world with woundedness in the realm of love. Chiron’s position within two degrees of Venus can bring insecurity in relationships, along with guilt, subservience and pain.

North Node in Scorpio, Eighth House
Ironically, this placement often portends a long life, perhaps even one of 100 years or more. This calls attention to how everything in life is a matter of both fate and free will. With this placement, ventures are sometimes undermined by circumstances beyond the native’s control (e.g., his parents’ divorce in 1975, further discussed below). An old-timey caution of the North Node in the Eighth House is to beware of losses brought on “by a woman with loose morals.” Further, someone with this placement would have to watch out for soaring flight followed by crash and burn. This echoes Kurt’s suicide note which read, “Better to burn out than to fade away.”

Cancerian Moon and Jupiter in the Tenth House of Status
Kurt’s Cancerian moon made him sensitive; its placement in his Tenth House of Status made him particularly sensitive about his place in the world. He was said to be deeply fearful of ridicule and rejection, which perhaps further incentivized him to work so hard. With Jupiter in the Tenth House, fame is made possible, yet with the fluctuating moon there, it can be fleeting (though it can also reappear). Maybe Kurt feared there was a winter ahead of him professionally that he could not bear. Did he believe he wouldn’t be loved without his status? Could he love himself without it?

Pluto and Uranus in the Twelth House of the Subconscious
With both Pluto and Uranus in Kurt’s Twelfth House of the Subconscious, Kurt likely suffered from both emotional and mental trauma respectively. The emotional and mental trauma Kurt suffered could have been brought in from previous lifetimes, experienced when he was in his mother's womb, or endured and repressed when he was a baby, child, or young adult. Some of the traumas could have been collective as well: being under the empathic sign of Pisces, Kurt may have experienced the traumas of the world, which allowed him to create music that connected with so many.

The problem with subconscious trauma is that all of it may never get released, and more may be piled upon it, as the pain-sublimate process persists. But the pain experienced has to go somewhere, and that’s when people experience dis-ease. Every physical symptom has a spiritual root. Kurt experienced excruciating, undiagnosable stomach problems. Stomach problems are linked with not being able to digest something metaphorically (“I just can’t stomach this”). Perhaps it was the unprocessed emotional and mental trauma that caused Kurt’s debilitating stomach problems. Or perhaps it was an inability to speak up about his emotional needs.

1975 — Kurt’s Parents’ Divorce
It’s been said that Kurt’s parents’ divorce “ripped his world apart.” During 1975, the year of the divorce, transiting Saturn (the planet that limits and restricts) was at the same exact degree as his natal moon, the most sensitive part of the chart ruling the mother. When Saturn contacts the moon, it’s like having the pacifier being ripped out of your mouth. Saturn, due to its cutting nature, can sever the energy it contacts. Kurt’s parents’ divorce resulted in his mother not being able to keep him. He was given to his dad’s new family, then to his grandparents, and then back to his mom again. It’s been said that Kurt just wanted to be back with his mom, but her new husband had problems with Kurt. All the rejection Kurt experienced perhaps drove his ambition to be accepted by the world.

Kurt and Courtney
One of Kurt’s most significant relationships was with Courtney Love. When we compare their charts, we can see why their union seemed so intense. Courtney’s Saturn at 4° Pisces is within only three degrees of Kurt’s 1° Pisces Sun. Saturn, with its restricting nature, conjuncting Kurt’s Sun is not an easy relational aspect: The Saturn person (Courtney) can dominate, control and repress the Sun person (Kurt), and he may experience lowered vitality and self-confidence if with the Saturn person for too long. Then again, that authoritarian pressure that Courtney may have provided perhaps filled a void for Kurt, considering the parental rejection he experienced in early childhood.

Another interesting aspect of Kurt and Courtney’s astrology is their Sun-Moon connection. Courtney’s Sun at 17° Cancer is within only four degrees of Kurt’s 13° Cancerian Moon. The Sun is the masculine force; the Moon is the feminine one. Whenever someone’s Sun sign is on your Moon sign, you’re going to feel overpowered by them, as a most powerful energy (the Sun) is connecting with the most vulnerable one (the Moon). The Moon person in such a relationship (Kurt) will usually be the more moody, sympathetic, and passive partner, and usually play a supportive or submissive role to the Sun person (Courtney). This may have strained their relationship — Kurt not being on the receiving end of the support, while having the lion’s share of the responsibility. That being said, Courtney is under the sign of Cancer — an extremely nurturing sign — and she has a relationship-oriented Libra rising: with these aspects, it’s likely she nurtured Kurt as best she could.

Police announced that the time of Kurt’s death was at 7pm on April 5, 1994. On this day, the transiting North Node of destiny was at 24° Scorpio, making an exact conjunction to Kurt’s Neptune. This aspect gives rise to confusion; one’s judgment can be off, and drugs and alcohol issues may surface. Further, Kurt was likely going through a moment of dissolve: Something was bound to dissolve around him during that time. Though it wound up being his life, his marriage, career, close friendships, too, could have been facing dissolve.

What’s interesting, too, is that on this day, transiting Mercury, the planet of communication, was at 24° Pisces, hitting Kurt’s 24° degree Chiron (woundedness) exact. It’s likely that on or around this day, some communications deeply hurt Kurt — the kind that opens up old wounds. Did someone say something that wounded him? Did he overhear something that someone said? Perhaps we’ll never know, nor do we need to in order to realize that Kurt was deeply hurt at this time.

Saturn during this time, too, was making a trine to Kurt’s Second House South Node in Scorpio. The South Node represents our past, and though it can be used to fuel the North Node’s destiny, it’s important not to rest there. Kurt’s South Node in the Second House may have made him self-possessive in the past; it seems he went to the opposite extreme, giving everything he had in the pursuit of making others happy. When Saturn hit his South Node, there may have been an urge to take back what was once his — i.e., his life. Unfortunately, perhaps he felt the only way to reclaim his life was to take it.

In Conclusion
With Kurt’s incredible talent, coupled with his drive and overcompensatory work ethic, he was able to achieve more than most. He achieved too much, too fast, perhaps. It’s likely that he didn’t have the emotional foundation needed to handle the additional pressure that achievement created. Success became a prison. More responsibility would have invariably followed, especially upon completion of Kurt’s Saturn Return (the astrological step into adulthood) at 30 years old. Though a stronger emotional foundation may have helped Kurt handle his life better, if he had received the love and acceptance he needed early on in his life, perhaps he wouldn’t have been so driven to achieve.

The balance for ourselves may be to see life as a journey of contrast. By knowing what we don’t want (e.g., rejection) we are informed of what we do want (e.g., acceptance). But always, going outside of ourselves for that fulfillment first creates new problems. We need a strong emotional foundation — a strong sense of internal security — so that which we seek in life enhances our already-satisfied life experience. We can’t expect external circumstances to change deep rooted internal problems.

If we look at Kurt’s Solar Return chart in 1994 prior to his death, there’s some advice that may have been helpful: Focus on deepening your sense of internal, emotional security, with the Cancer rising; embrace inner transformation — a blowing up of the old self to release the pressure — with his Sun’s square to Pluto; express yourself even at the expense of your public, creating what you want to, not what’s expected, with his Moon conjuncting his North Node in the Fifth House. Though it’s too late for Kurt now, it’s not too late for us to be inspired by his music and his life, as to help keep his star — and ours — always shining.