Van Gogh, Red Aries #26

Vincent Van Gogh, classic Aries redhead. More Van Gogh self-portraits here.

"There is only a constantly being born again . . . . .  a constant going from darkness into light."

Exactly a year before his birth, [Van Gogh's] mother, Cornelia, gave birth to an infant, also named Vincent, who was stillborn, or dead upon birth. His grieving parents buried the child and set up a tombstone to mark the grave. As a result, Vincent Van Gogh grew up near the haunting sight of a grave with his own name upon it.

Take a look at this Self-Portrait with Sunflower by Anthony Van Dyck, the other great redheaded Dutch painter. Any other major painter who featured sunflowers so importantly as him and Van Gogh? (Here for Van Gogh sunflowers.) Not that I know of. I guess the sunflower appealed to Aries, the first fire sign, as a down-to-earth blossoming of the solar fire, as a benign representation of the fiercely assertive individuation principle.

Van Dyck was pre-eminently a portraitist of others but found time to paint himself often, usually emphasizing his auburn hair. 

Anthony Van Dyck, Self-Portrait with Sunflower




Jesus Christ, Aries in Red #25

RaphaelRAPHAEL was born and died on Good Friday (1483-1520). Almost invariably, his Christs and Madonnas are robed in red. According to Matthew the soldiers put a scarlet robe on the bleeding Christ. He is often conjectured to have been an Aries; the December date is a late borrowing from an ancient Roman festival. He was, if not born, more importantly, reborn at the Passover time. The stark echo of womb and tomb, the perpetually tragic Mother and Son, the sacrificed lamb of God, the cult of sacred suffering and sacred Paschal blood, the barbaric cannibalism repeated in the Eucharist, are colors from the paint pot of Aries, the emblem of origins.



Anthony Van Dyck


Red Aries #24 (Mothers)


Ann Miller, star of "Easter Parade", b. April 7, 1923


I hurry through these references in order to achieve a general impression of the harsh reality of the birth experience which Aries exposes.

Samuel Beckett (b. April 13, 1906): His parents made it clear that he was an unwanted pregnancy. He was obsessed with memories of suffocation in the womb, of an attempted wire hanger abortion on himself as a fetus, and with a nagging sensation of having been “incompletely born”.

Marguerite Duras (b. April 4, 1914) was obsessed by her demented mother, who favored her horrible eldest son. She was traumatized by her only pregnancy, which ended in stillbirth. She wrote, “I believe that always, or almost always, in all childhoods and in all the lives that follow them, the mother represents madness. Our mothers always remain the strangest, craziest people we've ever met.”  

Cynthia Ozick (b. April 17, 1928): Her tale of Puttermesser and the Golem is an amazing meditation on the  mother/child dyad. So, for that matter, is her famous holocaust story, The Shawl.

Baudelaire (April 9, 1821) and his mother, the remarried Mme Aupick, a paradigmatic relationship acutely analyzed by J-P Sartre in his classic 'Baudelaire'. Baudelaire lived fatherless with his mother in a state of symbiotic, quasi-fetal bliss, until he was eight, when she abruptly married Aupick. The poet never recovered from the late loss of his paradise. 

The mother of the poet Paul Verlaine (b. March 30, 1844) “suffered three miscarriages before Paul’s birth in 1844; she preserved the fetuses in jars. When Paul came along he received the obsessive and indulgent mothering that such behavior portended. . . .In 1869 Verlaine made at least two violent attacks on his mother, threatening to kill her (how genuinely remains unclear), and on one occasion breaking the glass jars in which the three dead fetuses were kept.” (Bohemian Paris, by Jerrold E. Seigel)

Bette Davis, in the film Now, Voyager a self-proclaimed matricide and in her daughter's autobiography My Mother’s Keeper an abusive parent. Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce, an abused mother, and in Mommy Dearest, an abusive mother. In Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte, they abuse each other.

Among the psychoanalysts:
Wilhelm Reich (24 March 1897): As a teenager he spied on his mother’s trysts, reported them to his father, precipitated her suicide, and discovered her body. Donald Winnicott and Melanie Klein, two important post-Freudian theorists specializing in the child: Each of them criticized Freud for his over-emphasis of the oedipal phase and his neglect of the crucial mother/child bond.


Billie Holiday suffered this formative meta-maternal disaster. Her favorite family member was her greatgrandmother, her grandfather's mother:

She really loved me and I was crazy about her. She had been a slave on a big plantation in Virginia and she used to tell me about it. She had her own little house in the back of the plantation. Mr. Charles Fagan, the handsome Irish plantation owner, had his white wife and children in the big house. And he had my great grandmother out in back. She had sixteen children by him, and all of them were dead except Grandpop.

We used to talk about life. And she used to tell me how it felt to be a slave, to be owned body and soul by a white man who was the father of her children. She couldn't read or write, but she knew the Bible by heart from beginning to end and she was always ready to tell me a story from the Scriptures.

She was ninety-six or ninety-seven then and had dropsy. I used to take care of her every day after school. No one else paid any attention. I'd give her a bath sometimes. And I'd always bind her legs with fresh cloths and wash the smelly old ones.

She'd been sleeping in chairs for ten yearrs. The doctor told her she'd die if she ever laid down. But I didn't know. And once after I'd changed the cloths on her legs and she had told me a story, she begged me to let her lie down. She said she was tired. I didn't want to let her. But she kept begging and begging. It was pityful.

Finally I spred a blanket on the floor and helped her stretch out. Then she asked me to lie down with her because she wanted to tell me another story. I was tired too. I'd been up early that morning to scrub steps. So I laid down with her. I don't remember the story she told me because I fell asleep right away.

I woke up four or five hours later. Grandma's arm was still tight around my neck and I couldn't move it. I tried and tried and then I got scared. She was dead, and I began to scream. The neighbors came running. They had to break Grandma's arm to get me loose. Then they took me to a hospital. I was there for a month. Suffering from what they said was shock.

When I got home Cousin Ida started right in where she had left off, beating me. This time it was for letting Grandma out of her chair. The doctor tried to stop her. He said if she kept it up I'd grow up to be nervous. But she never stopped.

What a gruesome version of the birth trauma, the terrifying struggle of nascent being against negation and regression, that continually animates Aries, the sign of beginning.



Amy Goodman, Aries in Red #23

Happy Birthday to "Democracy Now!" host Amy Goodman! Yet for all their outspokenness, we find very few Aries among the major names of the classical feminist movement. Gloria Steinem is just about the only one I can think of.


Aries Red #22 - Baby's first outfit - Descartes and Hobbes


 Aries remembers birth, emerging clothed in bloody viscera, in the seat of compulsion and pleasure/pain. Aries never gets over it and a marked ambivalence toward the Mother runs through the biography of the Ram.

The amniotic sac (gr. amnos, lamb) and the blood-laden placenta. Aries never fully recovers from the trauma of birth. They oscillate between the exhilaration of freedom and the unfairness of having no choice but to BE. They never give up their first lover/enemy, the Mother. The personal history of Aries often contains a flamboyancy in the mother-figuration, an dramatic engagement they can't pass up or let go of.

Aries tells us about beginnings: at the beginning of the modern mind Aries speaks through two philosophers, the contemporaneous Descartes (March 31, 1596 - 1650) and Hobbes ( April 5, 1588 - 1679). Philosophical argument deplores the ad hominem, but astrology adores it: both Descartes and Hobbes endured particularly vivid birth circumstances. Descartes, with cogito ergo sum, objectified the concept of the Self we continue to use and question. He experienced a complicated and politically dense infancy. Briefly, he lied about it; philosophers are not supposed to lie.

As for Hobbes, inventor of the rational materialist politics of power, his reputation rolls on the wheels of a few Arietic formulations, ("clear and distinct" as Descartes said thoughts should be) the "warre of each against all",  "nasty, brutish, and short". His birth took place during the bombardment of the English coast by the Spanish Armada. "His mother fell in labor with him upon the fright of the invasion of the Spaniards," Aubrey's Brief Lives puts it. A bachelor, Hobbes had no offspring but left an autobiography. He attributed his lifelong anxiety to his delivery: "And hereupon it was my Mother Dear/Did bring forth Twins at once, both Me, and Fear."

Additional reading:

Bordo, Susan. Ed. Feminist Interpretations of Descartes (1999)

Hoffman, Piotr. The Quest for Power: Hobbes, Descartes, and the emergence of modernity (1996)


The Red Shoes (#21)

In Aries Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale "The Red Shoes" the color red plays the same role it does in Bette Davis's "Jezebel". To shock propriety, the heroine insists on wearing red dancing shoes to church, with dire consequences.


Red Aries #20

Add Hugh Hefner to the list of Aries Casanovas.




VanDyck n Descartes, Aries red #18

The great 17th century portraitist Anthony Van Dyck, a March 22 Aries, adored the ferric oxide pigment which has come to be known as Van Dyck red and made it the principal feature of many paintings. Red swags, red drapes, red trousers, dresses, robes, ribbons, tablecloths, stockings, capes, cloaks, rags, you name it.

Strange! That thy hand should not inspire
The beauty only, but the fire:
Not the form alone, and grace,
But act and power of a face. (Waller, To Van Dyck)

Van Dyck introduced to portraiture the goal of presenting, on a red curtained theatrical stage, distinctive, individual personality, dash and flair. His years (1599-1641) correspond to those of Descartes. His subjects all say, "Therefore I AM!" Descartes (born March 31, 1596-1650), the philosopher who ushers in the modern era, is ground zero for a methodical exposition of the zodiac as an approach to the post-modern Subject. (Which is in the works, but we're doing red dresses now.) We have no portrait of Descartes in red (although he was known to dress en militaire and carry a sword). Let Van Dyck represent him visually.



Aries in red dress #17(Talk show hosts)

Graham Norton (b. 4 April 1963)

Rosie was born on March 21, 1962










I've been shlepping this Joe Ciardiello illustration of Dave Letterman (born April 12, 1947) since it appeared in the New Yorker in 1996. Now it's scanned and I can get rid of it! . . . . 

I was saving this one for a post devoted to Aries redheads:

O'Brien was born on April 18, 1963

One more of Graham Norton:


Blood-soaked, Aries #16


William Harvey (b. April 1, 1578) discoverer of the circulation of blood.

Two other Aries of note in the history of blood:

Joseph Lister (April 5, 1827) one of the greatest of 19th century surgeons, he performed thousands of amputations, and discovered antisepsis.

James B. Conant (March 26, 1893) a brilliant and creative polymath, president of Harvard University, began his professional life as a biochemist, and made significant contribution to the understanding of hemoglobin, and why blood is red.



Aries in red #15

Robert Downey, Jr.

Julie Christie



Emma Thompson (b. April 15, 1959 )

Brenda Spencer (b. April 3, 1962). “A tiny girl, under five foot tall, with long red hair, epileptic. She stayed with her father after her parents divorced, living across the street from a school. On January 29, 1979, she took a rifle that her father had given her for Christmas, shot the custodian and principal dead and wounded six children and a policeman, because 'I hate Mondays.' ”   Astro Data  V, Profiles of Crime.

Marguerite Steinheil (b. April 16, 1869) Parisian courtesan, mistress of a president, murderess, known as the “Red Woman of Paris”.


Jezebel: Aries in Red #13

Aries often steps forth with spirited conviction and brings about disastrous consequences. In Jezebel, just for wearing a red gown to the All-White Cotillion, Bette Davis is inundated with humiliation and catastrophe.


CASANOVA: Aries in red #12


Richard Chamberlain, b. 31 March 1934Giacomo Casanova (b. April 2, 1725) is an Aries archtype, the priapic libertine, irrepresible autobiographer, soldier, charlatan and adventurer, who once robbed a grave as a practical joke. Among his escapades his literal escape from the Venetian prison stands out as a dramatization of the Aries birth experience. He also stole and sold the secret formula of the red dye of British military cloth. Aries actors have often been cast as Casanova: David Tennant, Heath Ledger, Richard Chamberlain, while the not-Aries Donald Sutherland was distinctively miscast in Fellini's Casanova. Two other Aries natives are highpoints in the history of promiscuity: the Italian pornographer Pietro Aretino, (notably rendered in Titian red) Pietro Aretino (b. 20 April 1492) by TitianJohn Wilmot, Lord Rochester (b.1 April 1647)and the English poet-rake Lord Rochester. Closer to home, Aries actors Marlon Brando and Warren Beatty have famously notched bedposts.

Casanova costume for Heath Ledger (b. April 4, 1979)David Tennant (b. 18 April 1971) as CasanovaHugh Hefner, b. April 9, 1926


Aries in red #11

Kelly LeBrock, born March 24, 1960, never repeated the splash she made with her first film, The Woman in Red in 1984. See more of her. She seems to continue to have a good time. She married Aries Steven Seagal.



Red Aries #10

Jayne Mansfield is Aries in Red #10





James Ensor, Aries in red #9

James Ensor, The Red Parasol

James Ensor, the Belgian fantast, was born on April 13, 1860. His canvases are always marked by the well-placed reds. Favorite themes are red-cloaked skeletons, red lips, red caps, red fire.

Astrology cannot be captured by science. The two may be regarded as enterprises at right-angles. Scientific procedure requires the scrupulous eradication of subjectivity. Astrological procedure, on the other hand, requires the equally scrupulous  conservation of subjectivity. One must not confuse the truth of the horoscope with  methodical paragraphs of interpretive boilerplate. The truth of the horoscope is not to be found written on a page, it is something that unfolds within the experience of the Subject.

James Ensor, Skeletons warming themselves

Ensor, Self-portrait in red hat



Aries in red #7

Sarah Jessica Parker was the third to wear Little Orphan Annie's famous red dress.


Scarlet women (#6)

Red signifies prostitution as codified in 17th century French legal code and in "scarlet woman" and "red light district". Here are two Aries actresses playing mother and daughter putting on the red in a grim tale of prostitution, Freeway.Reese Witherspoon and Amanda Plummer