Kurt Cobain, Anemic Royalty
Kurt Cobain was born February 20, 1967 in a nowhere town called Aberdeen located in Washington State. His experiences growing up there are not savory and contributed to his lifelong obsession with his pain. Though, if he were born elsewhere maybe he wouldn’t have had the urge to write strange and hauntingly beautiful pop songs.
His mom and dad divorced in 1976 and left Kurt further bewildered and with a feeling of betrayal that again lasted his entire life. One trend we notice when we examine Kurt’s life is that he had a complete inability to let go of his painful past and that he even seemed to go out of his way to incur slights and disagreeable experiences.
From Kurt’s past we see someone who was an unstable personality, artistically inclined, and extremely ambitious when it came to the commercialization of his art. Kurt felt he had something to say and was extremely confident in his prospects as a musician. Two things that Kurt was very serious about in his life were making music and making money, and getting a lot of attention for doing both those things. He had something to prove to his small-minded friends and enemies in Aberdeen. That he was somebody and that he was loved.
Against long odds, Kurt did eventually make it after he formed a band with his school friend Chris Novoscelic. The band he first formed was Fecal Matter, a purveyor of punk nihilism. Kurt decided on the name Nirvana going against his burgeoning punk allegiances. Actually, he was going to call the band Pen Cap Chew but his commercial instincts brought him back to his senses at the last minute. Yes, Kurt had commercial instincts, real good ones, in addition to being fringy.
Kurt wasn’t content just to be in a punk band, though it was the first scene that he actively participated in and was instrumental in forming the sound Nirvana would blend with pop, blues, and metal influences. However, the most important aspect of Nirvana was Kurt Cobain’s persona, the music merely being a vehicle to transmit his kaleidoscopic psychic arrays.
Sensitivity and Kindness
The first thing we notice when we look at Kurt's chart is the staggering amount of water sign placements. Nine out of eleven planets are in water signs. That is unprecedented. I’ve never seen a chart that has that much water. So, we may safely conclude that Kurt is a bit on the sensitive side. Not telling us something we don’t know. Kurt was one of the most emotionally gifted and cursed people that ever existed.
Kurt was also an extremely kind person. This is particularly indicated by his Venus in Pisces trine Jupiter in Cancer, the crème de la crème of trines, both trining Neptune in Scorpio. This Venus/Jupiter combination is innately refined, sympathetic, and sincere. Venus and Jupiter are both exalted. The exaltations express the highest and most elevated dimension of the signs they exalt in. Kurt’s Moon in Cancer reinforces his sympathetic and kind nature. Saturn darkens the configuration by its conjunction to Venus adding a dirge-like note of cynicism.
We’ll float around on clouds
Then we’ll come down
Have a hangover.
Kurt possessed an exquisite emotional nature from which he generated gorgeous feeling arrays. Beautiful emotive faculties that were neither lilting nor garish, but strong and vital, the exact right amount of feeling values for whatever the occasion called for. His voice was one of the most tender, magical, and raw instruments ever heard in the recorded history of song. All the water trines in his chart of course testify to this rare emotional gift.
The water trines give Kurt that languid, sleepy feeling that imbues his vocals. The song Come As You Are shows this torpor most clearly, the shimmering melody of the opening guitar line like it is being played underwater followed by the lyrical sentiment revealing Kurt’s disregard for the externals of a person, as long as they show up it doesn’t matter if they’re doused in mud or soaked in bleach. This song also shows his genius for taking a cliché and imbuing it with profound and beautiful sentimental value.
Punk Versus Commerce
The second thing we notice is the staggering amount of oppositions across the ascendant/descendant axis. This means that Kurt experienced a conflict between his identity and what other’s expected him to be and how he might go about catering to them or telling them to go fuck themselves, or both. With oppositions there is typically a lot of flip-flopping back and forth between dichotomous stances. These oppositions are the crux of Cobain’s fascinating and polarizing personality. They gave him controversial power, especially as Uranus is involved in the configuration.
At one end of the opposition is Uranus conjunct Pluto on the Virgo ascendant. Kurt must focus collective powers through his personality. This indicates an uncompromising and self-aware personality, a true revolutionary. The oppositions in the seventh house compel him to temper this stance while making him prone to attack and be attacked. There are going to be a lot of enemies made with these positions plus real rocky relationships.
The Virgo Ascendant lies in sharp contrast to his 5 Pisces planets. Virgo is self- contained and does not want to dissolve in the oceanic waters of Pisces. The best way to describe Virgo rising is a personality that is periodically down for maintenance. Reacting to the excesses of Leo before it, Virgo attempts a careful and meticulous construction of personality. The superego aspect of the psyche is active. Virgo risings are hard on themselves and they don’t let themselves get away with things that others do with impunity.
There was a struggle between giving himself away to the masses, to a mate, versus being uncontaminated. Pisces essentially involves letting go into the larger reality.
Kurt’s Chiron, ruling his ascendant, was placed in the seventh house compelling him to seek to be noticed and validated. He wanted and needed mirroring in order to come to a greater knowledge of himself. People with the ascendant ruler in the seventh house have trouble with finding a center of gravity within themselves feeling that it lies somewhere outside them. They seek partners to complete their ego identification needs. The fact that the planet is usually in its detriment doesn’t help matters.
Oppositions across this axis tend to bring the person before the public and emphasize the personality rather then the merit of their work. Oppositions across the Midheaven axis indicate the career, or function in society is important. With Cobain his personality was key in his success, primarily in being a fascinating and polarizing figure. The seventh house indicates in addition to marriage, courting the public and vice versa. The seventh house is appeal to others, on a one-to-one or equal basis. Heartthrobs have seventh house involvements. They make you feel like you are the only one. Kurt had this ability to make his listeners feel like he was addressing them directly.
The Saturn/Uranus opposition indicates that Kurt was born at a time when the polarization between conservative and progressive values was at its peak. Placed across the horizon axis his persona evokes these extremes of sentiment. He identified with the progressive values and attacked the old order. He also felt a great desire to sellout his ideals and make money. Kurt summed up this configuration up when he told a reporter that there is, “The half of me that wants to make money versus the half of me jivey enough to want society fragmented.”
Kurt’s temperament showed this juxtaposition between conservative, mainstream allegiances versus the revolutionary punk nihilist attitude embracing change at any cost. Because Venus is involved too, it shows up through his art. Kurt had an ear for the hook and couldn’t resist his instinct to write Paul McCartney style melodies. Yet, he felt in going in this direction of a mainstream rock sound he was selling out his revolutionary ideals.
Actually, what he ended up doing, and this is the beauty of oppositions, is finding the middle ground between these warring esthetic and cultural ideals and dragging the fringe into the mainstream. This was Kurt’s childhood goal and his main contribution to music. Most of Nirvana’s songs use a traditional pop structure of verse-chorus-verse but Kurt used this old formula to yield new and exhilarating results.
Articulating The Ineffable
Kurt had an encyclopedic knowledge of pop music and could isolate influences in old music and recycle it into his songs. He used music and lyrics with great economy making two notes do the work of a dozen. You can hear this famously in Smells Like Teen Spirit, those two bleak notes ringing out in the pre-chorus section containing a universe of meaning.
Kurt had Mercury in Pisces on the Descendant meaning he could articulate the views of the public. The Moon/Neptune midpoint, indicating the ability to feel and understand other people’s troubles in a sympathetic manner, is conjunct his Mercury. Neptune is tenanting the third house filling out the picture of an exceptionally receptive and impressionable mind that can both receive and communicate the unconscious views of others. The Virgo rising contains the bleed.
Mercury in Pisces, trine Neptune in 3rd house shows the connection between communication and the incommunicable. Kurt’s songs demonstrate a gift of blurring the edges between saying nothing and saying more than is possible with words. “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, the song that catapulted Nirvana into instantaneous fame, is a song that is trying to reveal something but simultaneously is obscuring its meaning. Without being a Virgo rising it is questionable whether Kurt would have been as effective a communicator as he was. Virgo is particularly good at making clear the nebulousness of the Piscean realm. Kurt was aware of this incongruity in his character.
In the song On A Plain he says,
It is now time
to make it unclear
to write off lines
that don’t make any sense
Kurt knew he was saying something but he didn’t quite know what. He also didn’t want to make it too clear. Kurt loved to be cryptic, to both infer a meaning and simultaneously to conceal it. Pisces doesn’t want too much clarity preferring to dwell in the twilight realm of consciousness. Virgo, on the other hand wants things qualified, accounts balanced, and the tides calculated. It is a creative combination for an artist. Without the Pisces/Neptune you have a good communicator but the message is prosaic. Without the Virgo/Mercury you have someone who is lost in the depths with little power of articulation.
Kurt was a control freak of the first order. Nothing happened in Nirvana without his assent. He wanted to be the sole creator and it was his vision that was being disseminated. Pluto on the ascendant denotes a person with a strong sense of purpose that they can’t be talked out of. Kurt always had a goal in mind and was nowhere near as aimless as his slacker image has lead many people to believe. Pluto here gives an incredibly strong ego but it exacts a price in submission to a larger purpose. The ego can focus collective forces. People with Pluto in the 1st feel an immense sense of self-importance of being singled out and chosen for a special mission. Kurt told reporters before he had even released a record that Nirvana was the best band since The Beatles.
It would be fair to say that if Pluto is conjunct the ascendant no matter how aimless and lacking in ambition the rest of the chart is, that Pluto here will make for a person that is unrelenting in getting ahead in their life. They will drive themselves to breakdown to attain their goals. There was a cruel and ruthless streak in Kurt and this is where it came from. This is in contradistinction to Kurt’s media image as a clueless backwoods hick that became the leader of the biggest band of the nineties by a fluke. Kurt wanted to be famous and he got there by being a tyrant. In every other respect in his life he showed little capacity for power but when it came to his musical career he left nothing to chance.
The Moon in the tenth house indicates a person that will use others to get to the top. The Moon in Cancer though insistent on remaining anonymous has a way of being drawn into the public eye. The combination of house and sign creates an instinctive canniness when it comes to attaining recognition. Kurt would insist that the last thing in the world that he wanted was to be famous but from examining his actions it is clear that this was underlying motivation.
All In All
Water signs don’t necessarily understand what is motivating them. They are responsive to promptings from the unconscious realms. The trines give cohesion so that whatever is motivating them any action taken is likely to be successful. It is amazing that Kurt got as far as he did with the brittle and unstable temperament that he possessed and the nowhere town that he was born into, providing him scant resources to succeed in life. It is a testament to his immense will power that he was able in the end to galvanize an entire generation of disaffected youth into a cohesive whole, a power that he had little ability to use for himself. His fragmentation was his healing balm to the collective. This is beautifully pictured in Chiron as ambassador of the Ascendant going counter to it in the seventh house. Kurt could only become whole by giving himself away. The more he healed the Other the more he became a fractured ego himself. It is typical of Chiron that it can do for others what it can’t do for itself.
Kurt sensed on a primeval level what his role in life was. It happened through the agency of music but in this case the medium is not the message. It was Cobain’s wound and the nature of the world that inflicted that wound that Kurt was transmitting. In essence he was saying, “I am offering myself up as a sacrifice to the collective so that you may see what happens to purity and innocence when they travel through a tube and end up in your infection.”
Kurt had his personal motivations and flaws but he was essentially on a larger mission and he knew it. He used the war taking place inside his psyche to lead him to his destiny. The degree symbol for his Chiron sums it up nicely. 25 degrees of Pisces has as its symbol, “David about to sling at Goliath the stone destined to kill him.” Kurt may have been small in stature but he single-handedly dealt the deathblow to the established order.