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Groucho (Julius) Marx
October 2, 1890, New York City
Interpretation by Kathy Biehl
This interpretation uses the birthdate and place given in the Marx Brothers Encyclopedia. The chart was run with the sun on the ascendant, to avoid the problem of not having an exact birth time, and as a result I'm not making any conclusions about the ascendant. The planets and signs are:
Sun conjunct Mercury in
Moon conjunct Neptune conjunct Pluto in Gemini
Venus in Scorpio
Mars in Capricorn
Jupiter in Aquarius
Saturn in Virgo
Uranus in Libra
North node in Gemini
Groucho's chart has a preponderance of planets in air. Under the system of counting I normally use (assigning two points to the sun, moon and ascendant and one point to all other planets), he has an equal number in cardinal and mutable signs, which means the chart overlay could be either Libra or Gemini. (If we knew the time of his birth, the ascendant might break the tie.) Under other systems of counting, the greater number is in mutable, which would give the chart a Gemini overlay, underscoring the importance of his heavily aspected Gemini moon.
This chart shows an intensely intellectual nature with a free-flowing wit, a drive to work long and hard for material security, and a complicated, troubled relationship to women.
Groucho was born to think, read and use his intellect. Mental abilities came naturally and easily to him; they didn't require effort or exerting energy, but were simply the way he was. What shows this in his chart is a grand trine in air linking two-thirds of his planets. A grand trine means that three points in the chart are about 120 degrees away from each other, so if you were to draw lines connecting the planets, you'd get an equilateral triangle. In this case, the Sun/Mercury conjunction in Libra is about 120 degrees away from the Moon/Neptune/Pluto conjunction in Gemini, which is about 120 degrees away from Jupiter in Aquarius, which is about 120 degrees away from the first point. Groucho's ego and sense of self and purpose (Sun), which was closely tied to his mind and communication abilities (Mercury), fed into his emotional nature (Moon and company, about which much more later), and all of this linked unconsciously and automatically to the planet that brings good fortune — and also expands, enlarges, heightens, aggrandizes, etc. anything it touches.
Anytime one point in a trine gets activated, the whole configuration comes into play. As a result, Groucho was not a person who could divide the intellectual and emotional aspects of his life (a trait that is also evident from his moon falling in an air sign. Even absent the trine, Groucho's emotional nature would have been mental and detached. The presence of the trine just amplified the situation.) Everything was processed through his mind, and talked about, probably to extreme. This does not mean that he employed direct confrontation. Instead, he specialized in sideswiping. This grand trine depicts a master in passive-aggression. It welds the Libran flair for passive-aggression to a verbose, space-loving emotional nature and blow it into rarely seen proportions.
A grand trine in words would put emphasis on words, writing, thought and mental pursuits. This shows a mind that can not turn off. There is so little water and earth in this chart that there was no off switch. Sleep was probably difficult as a result. Libra values books; people with a heavy Libra emphasis often amass enormous libraries. With the moon in Gemini, emotional fulfillment would have come through use of words. (Groucho learned to read well beyond the strength of his schooling and, of his accomplishments, exhibited the most pride about his writing; he was also a prodigious letter writer.) The proximity of Neptune to the moon reveals that he felt at home in the make-believe world of the stage and screen.
This whole configuration would have made him incredibly glib, quick-witted and able to ad lib instantaneously. Inspiration could come from nowhere; with Neptune so close to his moon, he was in constant contact with his muse. He probably could sit down at the typewriter and bang out pieces as if he were channeling. Groucho would never have been at a loss for words; in fact, he would have found it against his nature not to have an opinion, a quip, a comeback. Keeping his mouth shut would have required incredible conscious effort. Diverting his attention would have been the best way to deal with him in tricky situations. Finding something else to occupy his mind, some new pursuit for him to explore (probably through reading) would have been key.
Because he valued the mind so highly, he was likely insecure about his own intellect to a point that seemed irrational to other people. A sure-fire way to trigger his insecurities and anger would have been to question his intelligence or make him look uneducated.
The same, non-stop energy flow would have made it difficult to turn off worry once it started. And, no surprise, other planetary placements outside the grand trine show the predisposition for worry. He felt a keen need for material security, as well as a responsibility to earn and safeguard it. With Mars in Capricorn, he worked for long term goals, required a long term, material payoff and had a need to be the daddy in a situation. This would have made him feel instinctively responsible to be a provider, a theme echoed by Saturn in Virgo. (The two planets are in a trine or harmonious relationship, which underscores their working together.) This placement gave a critical, judging edge to his fulfillment of obligations. Another way of looking at this is that the way in which he limited himself was by being critical and judgmental. This influence would make him approach a situation with an unemotional, detached eye, measure it against a standard of perfection and automatically home in on what was flawed or lacking. Even if he meant his words to be constructive, they no doubt hurt many a recipient. This was not a person to go to for warmth and emotional support.
Groucho would not have spared himself, though. Saturn in Virgo would have made him level criticism just as freely at himself, and he would have always viewed the dark side in every accomplishment. Once the stock market crash of 1929 wiped out his investments and demonstrated that outside forces could destroy what he'd worked for, it is unlikely that any amount of money ever stilled his anxiety over security.
His emotional nature was complicated. Moon in Gemini by itself would have given a need for emotional space, distance and independence. This needs are muddied, though, by a Neptune/Pluto conjunction. Neptune adds a non-worldly air, which could have taken the form of anything from fantasy to spirituality to outright delusion, while Pluto adds tenacity, compulsion and obsessiveness. Groucho was probably completely out of touch with reality when it came to reading or recognizing emotional needs, whether his or other people's. He would have mythologized women (a trait echoed in Venus in Scorpio) and clutched at them, while at the same time doing everything possible to keep them at a safe distance. Once involved with someone, he would not have been the one to let go, but he would also have been the one to exercise power by not letting the other person get close. He probably did not see his wives for their true selves, but projected all kinds of fantasy stuff about the role of women onto them. He would have gravitated to women with a pronounced escapist streak themselves. Theatrical involvement is one way this played out; all of his wives were at least nominally involved in theater, a business built around fantasy. Escapist behavior is another, which in the case of his first wife took the form of descending into alcoholism.
Outside the realm of romantic relationships, the aspects to Groucho's moon suggest that he would have felt most at home around creative, intense, driven people with whom he could exchange ideas. With all that air, he would have placed importance on friendships; the influence of Pluto would have inclined him to retain relationships for a long, long period — even though he may have been compelled to challenge or blow them up periodically.
This heavily aspected, complicated moon also reveals Groucho's experience of his mother. As in Zeppo's, there is no hint of a comforting, nurturing maternal presence in this chart. (For a comparison of the brothers' relationship to their mother, click here.) To him she would have been quite the talker, independent and, above, all distant — but by no means absent. His view of his mother is both omnipresent and omnipotent, overbearing, inescapable, all-consuming, all-controlling, and wielding life-or-death power over him. The Neptune/moon conjunction would have made him worship his mother and forgive her anything (and absolutely not see her true colors); the Pluto/moon conjunction would have made him cling to her, obey her and fear her. The combination is classic push-pull, showing a fundamental need for emotional distance and a compulsion to be close to the point of being consumed.
The grand trine underscores how fundamentally Groucho needed women. A grand trine needs to be grounded by a planet that falls halfway between two of the points of the triangle. (Otherwise, the free-flow of energy can express itself in psychosis.) This turns the configuration into a kite, with the mid-point planet serving as the string. In this chart, the string of the kite is in opposition (a stress aspect) to the Moon/Neptune/Pluto conjunction, which pulls his complex emotional nature into the issue of grounding. Not coincidentally, the planet in the string is the other female indicator, Venus, which shows both his romantic/artistic/aesthetic nature and his image of the ideal woman, and it is in Scorpio, the sign ruled by Pluto. Venus in Scorpio embodies a view of women as deep, mysterious, dangerous but compelling and addictive creatures. Like the Moon/Neptune conjunction, this placement encourages putting women on pedestals. For Groucho, idolizing kept them at a comfortable distance, from which they could not threaten to overwhelm him — or challenge the role of his mother in his psyche. He would have been more comfortable approaching women in a serious, parental manner (with Mars in Capricorn) than accepting genuinely nurturing, maternal behavior in return.
With Venus in Scorpio, his romantic attractions would have been intense and intoxicating — until they ran into the reality of the prominence of his need for space. As for his aesthetic nature, he probably enjoyed delving deep into artistic pursuits, which provided the only safe source of passion (because they could always be processed through his brain.)
This astrological imprinting explains why Groucho opened to door to Erin Fleming. The prospect of being championed and cared for by a headstrong actress with undercurrents of emotional instability would have dovetailed with his complicated moon aspects and view of women. If there was a question of whose interests she really had in mind, it would have only felt all the more familiar. Attention from a bulldozing, fighting woman would have been strangely comforting.
The role of Venus in Scorpio as the grounding point for Groucho's grand trine took another form. The planet and the sign are both concerned with value and possessions, and Venus is also associated with the arts. Working in an artistic capacity (and getting paid for it) was critical to Groucho's sanity. He had no choice but to continue working till very late in life; he needed paying work as much for his psyche as for his bank account.
Both the moon/Neptune/Pluto conjunction and Mars in Capricorn show that Groucho was capable of committing himself to situations involving his sense of security, which reigns in the usual tendency of Moon in Gemini to pull the occasional disappearing act. These placements glued him to his family. The moon conjunction made him follow his mother's dictates; Mars in Capricorn shows working on and taking responsibility for family ventures.
Jupiter in Aquarius gave Groucho a forward-thinking humanitarian bent, at least philosophically and politically. The betterment of society would have been a concern, and he was in fact a supporter of liberal causes. Even though he was at a loss to exhibit compassion in close personal dealings, he could care for great numbers of people at a distance. They were in no danger of pushing his panic button.
Copyright Kathy Biehl 1999. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for electronic replication or distribution of this article only if you include the copyright notice.
(This page has originally been created for Frank Bland's 'Why A Duck?' website)