Astrotheme is an astrology site founded in 2002, offering the personalized horoscopes, compatibility charts, and other means of interpreting the stars that have become commonplace in our current astrology boom. It also offers more than 57,000 computer-generated celebrity horoscopes. With just the date, time, and place of a celebrity’s birth, the software can pump out a multi-page profile of a human soul you’ve only known through TV screens or history books. The top profiles, arranged by categories like “Celebrities Clicked in Real Time” and “Celebrities by Country/Occupation,” shift with the news cycle and reigning zodiac sign, but Astrotheme’s “real popularity” index is fairly constant. Since I began perusing the site in middle school, Angelina Jolie has been the “favorite” woman and Jesus Christ the favorite man.
There’s a reason we call our stars “stars.” As an Astrotheme representative wisely wrote to me in an email, Jesus, who is somehow a Pisces, “is one of the most famous characters in the world.” Who wouldn’t want to see his natal chart? But a quick glance at basically any zodiac site reveals a darker side to our cosmic curiosity. Alongside Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, and the 14th Dalai Lama, you’ll find dictators, serial killers (Gary Ridgway was an Aquarius; he probably turned to murder because it made him seem unique), and Nazis among the most popular charts.
In particular, Adolf Hitler’s chart has been an object of fascination for almost 100 years. “Every time I seem to think it’s done and finally over, it starts again,” astrologer Michelle Young said of the endless intrigue around the führer's horoscope, which consistently ranks in the top 20 Astrotheme profiles, a few notches behind the son of God and Johnny Depp.
The interest began in 1923, when German astrologer Elsbeth Ebertin self-published her horoscope of an anonymous politician born April 20, 1889 — Hitler’s birthday. “[T]he man must definitely be taken seriously and is destined for the role of a leader in future struggles,” Ebertin wrote. She went on to predict the Beer Hall Putsch, the Nazi Party’s failed coup d’etat in Munich, writing that the “fighter” might soon “place himself in danger… [to] start the stone rolling.”
That Ebertin’s chart was totally wrong — she placed Hitler’s sun in Aries, when in fact he is a well-known Taurus — didn’t dampen the public’s zeal for astrology (or fascism). In Germany at the time, “[a]strology was the supernatural solvent uniting virtually all occult and border scientific practitioners,” writes historian Eric Kurlander in his book, Hitler's Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich. Occultists used the stars as evidence for all kinds of fringe theories, including the Germans’ Indo-Aryan inheritance and their place at the top of some grand racial hierarchy.
Today, everyone agrees upon the basic facts of Hitler’s horoscope — Taurus sun, Capricorn moon, and Libra rising — but astrologers continue to agonize over their interpretations.
The führer kept his distance from these dark arts. “Hitler, I don’t believe, ever asked anyone to do his horoscope,” Kurlander told me. But top Nazi officers Rudolf Hess (Astrotheme’s 1,839th most popular man) and Henrich Himmler (638th) regularly consulted astrologers like Karl Ernst Krafft. After correctly predicting an attempt on Hitler’s life in 1939, the story goes, Krafft went to work in the Nazi propaganda ministry. Among other duties, he assisted Joseph Goebbels (788th) in identifying hidden signs in the writings of Nostradamus.
Today, everyone agrees upon the basic facts of Hitler’s horoscope — Taurus sun, Capricorn moon, and Libra rising — but astrologers continue to agonize over their interpretations. That’s probably because his chart isn’t all that terrifying. In a disconcerting epistolary style, Astrotheme’s impartial algorithm writes, “your sensitivity is withdrawn, Adolf Hitler.” It seems to appreciate its profile subject’s softer side: “You are naturally inclined towards tolerance and moderation, as well as elegance and tact, as if you were meant to please!”
“When you look at Hitler’s chart, you don’t see evil, unless you’re totally picking it apart,” Young said. She’s tried. Taurus and Libra are both ruled by Venus, the planet of beauty and love. But at the time of Hitler’s birth, Venus was retrograde. On an empirical level, that means that from the vantage point of a 19th century Austrian, Venus appeared to be moving away from the other planets — a phenomenon astronomers call the “apparent retrograde illusion.” To an astrologer, however, Venus pulling away at the moment of Hitler’s birth has metaphysical repercussions. It could explain why he didn’t, in Young’s words, “bestow love easily.”
Danielle Beinstein, an astrologer based in Los Angeles, also struggled with Hitler’s chart. Instead of Venus, she focused on “all this emphasis on the seventh house.” In astrology, houses are a way of dividing the ecliptic plane of our solar system into twelve manageable pieces, each associated with a different aspect of your life. The third house, for example, is a house of communication, while the seventh house is a house of relationships and, therefore, a “reflective” region, Beinstein told me. “My take on it is that he wasn’t an individual soul,” she said of Hitler. Rather, like other dictators who rose to power in the 1930s, Hitler reflected the “unconscious demons” of his time, like German angst over the Treaty of Versailles and anti-Semitism in the fatherland.
Astrologers aren’t the only ones who try to interpret evil through simple schema. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is also palatably reductive: Hitler was an ENTJ. And just as Young once executed a synastry — a comparison of two charts — between Hitler and fellow Taurus Saddam Hussein, psychologists have tried to compare the dictators’ purported personality disorders. Based on the questionable “consensus profiles” of respective “experts” on Nazi Germany and turn-of-the-century Iraq, a 2007 study concluded both men were “sadistic, antisocial, paranoid, and narcissistic.”
“When you look at Hitler’s chart, you don’t see evil, unless you’re totally picking it apart.”
Whatever you see in Hitler’s chart, the desire to look remains. Young thinks it’s “titillation” — a perverse desire to scare ourselves, but only a little. But Beinstein thinks there’s something deeper at play: “How do we wrestle with the terrible things that happen?” When things are senseless, “astrology is a thing to cling to,” she said. Hitler spearheaded some of the 20th century’s greatest atrocities — while history can show how he got there, astrology is supposed to answer the more fundamental question of whether it was going to happen all along.
Perusing a horrible person’s horoscope — or any horoscope, for that matter — may also be a desire to confirm we are who we believe ourselves to be. A common criticism of horoscopes that they’re vague, but that’s their greatest charm: If you feel accurately described, you have a new way to communicate your experience, and if it feels totally off, you just find another interpretation you like more.
The natal charts of Nazis and serial killers takes this to another level: If you take a peek at the Astrotheme profile for Ted Bundy (a characteristically flirty Sagittarius) and find nothing in common, you’ll feel instantly relieved. And even if you happen to have the same birthday or a similar planetary arrangement, you need only scroll through the accompanying screed to find comforting differences and reassuring nuances embedded within. The whole experience is a soothing reminder that you are probably an okay person — or at least better than all of these astronomic villains. (Neo-Nazis, as far as I can tell, don’t seem to be especially interested in the stars, instead focusing their “occult” energies on Norse mythology and death metal.)
In this case, and in this case alone, it might be best to defer to the astrologers. While psychologists and historians continue to pursue some grand theory of malignant personalities, Beinstein believes there’s nothing in Hitler’s chart to make sense of. “All energy is neutral until directed,” she told me. Trying to explain the origin of evil is “out of bounds in terms of astrology [and] what its purpose is.” It might be out of bounds for a lot of other disciplines, too.