Posted by: Donna Cunningham | June 14, 2011

John Edwards’ Rise and Fall–a Stellium Meltdown

© 6-13-2011 by Donna Cunningham, MSW

I wasn’t going to write about former Senator, John Edwards, simply because everyone else is, but his high profile political rise and fall illustrates an important point about stelliums. They can bring great accomplishments, but the sheer concentration of so much energy in one sign or house also makes that a point of incredible vulnerability.  

As we’ll see with Edwards’ chart, major transits to that sign or house can produce the highest highs and lowest lows in the course of a lifetime. Hard work to develop those talents and abilities can pay off handsomely during transits to one planet after another of the stellium.

However, misusing the abilities and qualities of the planets and signs involved can also backfire badly along the way. Much like a Grand Trine, the outstanding abilities inherent in a stellium can produce opportunities and accomplishments, but can also hold big temptations.

 One reason people with stelliums may begin to misuse their abilities is because the matters of the house involved matter so much to them. Not the sort to rest on their laurels after a success, they keep wanting to top themselves with greater and greater triumphs. That’s when the lure of misusing their talents or taking dubious shortcuts creeps in. It’s especially true when the Sun is involved—as it is in Edwards’ case—because this is the source of their self-worth and the very place they hope to shine. 

Stellium holders tend to stand out, so they’re often singled out by others who either need what they have or have what they need. Generally these others aren’t exactly sterling types, but instead may be 1) down and out or 2) not on the up and up. The temptations they present, once given into, become easier and easier to accept—the ends justifying the means. Eventually, under the wrong sort of transit, cutting ethical corners catches up with them. 

People with stelliums have so much of themselves invested in one area of life that a setback can be devastating. Sometimes, if the planets in the cluster aren’t being used constructively, or if the first event doesn’t present enough of a wakeup, you’ll see a series of unwanted happenings while the transiting planet aspects each stellium planet in sequence. 

John Edwards’ Natal Chart

The birth information and history are drawn from AstroDataBank Records here:  Edwards, John and  Edwards, Elizabeth and news media coverage here: Edwards Scandal Timeline: John Edwards and Rielle … – ABC News. The chart below is based on a birth time of 7:02 AM. AstroDataBank now rates this as a C, because his mother and a campaign aide both gave that birth time, but his wife asked him during an event and got 7:23 AM. The transits we’ll look at later seem to substantiate the 7:02 AM time. 


The most striking feature of his birth chart is the cluster of 4 planets in Gemini, including a conjunction of Moon and Jupiter and another of the Sun and Mars. Mercury, the ruler of Gemini and of the 12th house is in Cancer and in his 12th, but conjunct the Ascendant in the Gauquelin sector. The strength of Gemini and Mercury indicates a natural salesman, able to speak people’s language and talk anyone into anything. 

The close Moon-Jupiter conjunction speaks to his popularity with the public and his special appeal to the ladies. That conjunction, plus his Cancer planets and Ascendant, indicates an air of being a sincere, honest down home type. The Sun-Mars conjunction is the signature of a natural competitor and leader.   

Next, we note the concentration of planets in the 12th house, including the Sun, Mars, and Mercury. I would also count Jupiter and the Moon–closely conjunct the 12th house cusp–as part of the picture, even though they’re at the very end of the 11th. My observation over the years is that a planet sitting very close to the cusp between two houses has an impact on both.

As we saw in Jupiter in the 12th—When Does Good Luck Turn Bad? Jupiter in the 12th can be very lucky and have secret sources of support, but pushing that luck too far can backfire.  

Among a great many other things, the 12th is the house of secrets and self-undoing. Having the Sun in the 12th doesn’t doom you to obscurity. As noted in 12 Famous People with 12th House Suns, George W. Bush has it as well. What it does mean is that when ego and self-interest run wild, that position can lead you down the slippery slope of self-destruction.  

As Edwards explained in an important interview on Nightline with Bob Woodward,  

“I went from being a young senator to running for president, being a vice presidential candidate and becoming a national public figure. All of which fed a self-focus, an egotism, a narcissism that leads you to believe that you can do whatever you want. You’re invincible. And there will be no consequences. And nothing, nothing could be further from the truth.” (transcript: John Edwards Interview) 

Outer Planet Transits and Edwards’ Rise and Fall

 The sequence of transits that bracketed his political career seems like a story arc in a novel or television series. Since this post is already long, I’ll give you the short version. You can follow it by downloading my Transit Tracking Table for 1990-2012.

Matching up dates and events to his transits, I saw that the entire sequence of his stellar rise and spectacular fall was related to a long series of transits by the outer planets—Pluto, Neptune, and Uranus—to his four planets in Gemini. The two clusters—Moon-Jupiter and Sun-Mars—are far enough apart that he had some golden years.  

Pluto in Sagittarius opposed his Moon-Jupiter conjunction and entered his 6th house in 1998, the year he began his run for the Senate as a working man’s hero. It remained there, making oppositions to each of the 12th house planets in turn. He became a national figure and conducted his two presidential campaigns during a series of Pluto aspects to his Sun-Mars conjunction. Transiting oppositions don’t have to be bad.   

From 2006-8, Pluto opposed his Sun and Mars, while squaring his Pisces Midheaven. He dealt with sexual and campaign fraud scandals by first denying them and finally having to admit what he’d done. When he was indicted recently, Pluto, now in Capricorn, was opposing Mercury in Cancer, the ruler of the whole shebang. His 6th is a large house and Pluto moves very slowly, so it entered in 1998 and won’t leave until 2015. I suspect this novel has a few more plot twists and turns.   

During this same story arc, his chart also was strongly aspected by transiting Neptune—which is similar to the 12th in some of its effects as well as the ruler of his Pisces Midheaven. Since natal Neptune and Saturn are conjunct in the 4th and trine his Sun-Mars conjunction, he may have felt his fame and success was a great victory over his childhood poverty.    

Neptune went into his 8th house in 1999, the year he took office in the US Senate. Being in Aquarius, it trined one after another of his Gemini planets during its time in the 8th. The trines brought what he must have considered fantastic opportunities but which translated into dirty deals, misuse of campaign funds, secret sexual affairs, and payoffs to cover up his actions. (Sleaze is sleaze, even under a trine!) 

And, finally, transiting Uranus, first in Aquarius and then in Pisces was also part of the story arc. It was conjunct his Cancer Ascendant at birth and no doubt contributed to his enormous charisma. In his younger years, it passed through the lower half of his chart, more recently going through the 8th while it was in Aquarius. There it trined his Gemini stellium as he became a self-made multimillionaire, and then passed through the 9th as he became a lawmaker and a popular public figure. 

However, Uranus can also have its manic, grandiose, and lawless sides, so as it went into Pisces and squared his Gemini planets, he spun out of control. The Uranus-Saturn opposition of 2009-10 meant Uranus was crossing over his late Pisces Midheaven while   Saturn in Virgo was on his IC, while both of them squared his 12th house Mars. (The exactness of this set of aspects, to me, confirms the original birth time of 7:02 AM.) During that time,  his misdeeds were revealed, the family broke up, Elizabeth died, and an indictment loomed. 

 Transits to stelliums are seldom as dramatic as we see here. The combination of a stellium being seriously misused and the 12th house being expressed in a self-destructive manner made John Edwards’ rise and fall particularly spectacular. His story may, however, serve as a cautionary tale to anyone who misuses the gifts and opportunities a stellium can represent.  

Stellium Setbacks—the Bitter End or Another Beginning? 

Not all setbacks that people with stelliums experience are due to misdeeds. They may correlate with shifts in the outer planets’ signs, eras when we undergo collective shifts in the areas of life related to those signs. Pluto in Capricorn, for instance, has accompanied huge changes in corporations and in the earth itself. The long series of transits to the sign Libra over the past century have profoundly reshaped relationships, and not always for the better.  

These global shifts can represent both great losses and great opportunities when a stellium’s sign or house is affected. The genius of a stellium is that a personal failure can stimulate the individual to come up with solutions that help others affected by those same collective changes. 

Where there  are huge losses, it can take years to come back, though many of these gifted folks DO rebuild—better, stronger, and wiser—because that’s all they know to do with the special abilities and interests that make up the heart and soul of their existence. 

Incidentally, while John Edwards won’t be welcomed back into politics, don’t conclude that he’s headed for the poorhouse. Born to an impoverished family, he was a multimillionaire by his late 30s. This cat can definitely land on its feet, and let’s hope he’s learned something from his long downhill slide 

Readers, have you had—or watched someone else have—a rise and fall during outer planet transits to a stellium? Or, do you know of other celebrities who have? Please tell us about it in the comment section. 

Articles on the 12th house:

 The Stellium Series:

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Art Credit:  Edwards’ photo by By alexdecarvalho.


  1. Talk about fall from grace! I don’t have a story to share, but since Neptune is now starting to oppose my stellium, I’ll check back in a couple of years and tell you what happened … it did however start with me having to replace the toilet so I’m hoping it will go uphill from here 😀

  2. Yeah , I am in the same boat Natallie. What with Pluto squaring my conglomerate of planets on the Ascendant which square the nodes and transit Pluto at the So. Node nearing conjunction. One handy dandy thing is that I am developing a good view of the historical developments of the 4th world we are in. How it started into the corruption that always culminates at the end of every age. I might write a book about it. Already made a video of sorts that may or may not be published. One thing is certain…it always gets cleaned up to start over again. Its very exciting and informative to be here at this time!

    About another perspective to do with the ages….I have always felt that I was running a gauntlet from lifetime to lifetime and that there is a point and a goal. Each lifetime serves towards this larger goal and transits to a stellium is the time to show your stuff.
    The above John Edwards interview quote ,sounds like he learned his lesson and I am sure it will prove a valuable leap forward in his evolution. The school of hard knocks is the best teacher.

    The transit of Uranus to my conglomerate doesn’t bother me…I feel good about Uranus no matter what it does. Its the sign of the Thunder Beings and I am one of their little chicks..Then there’s Jupiter in my stellium who is also associated with the Thunder Beings …. and more or less comes down to earth with the power of Uranus and outer space Dragon energy ; but I have never heard of its astrological association as such?

    • “Uranus and outer space Dragon energy?” Sorry, Barehand, I’ve never heard anything about that. Donna

      • A scientific fact is that,Jupiter receives most of the comets from outer space that enters our solar system. Remember a few years back when 21 comets went into Jupiter….I had a dream and saw how excited Jupiter was at this great reception and the 21 comets appeared as 3 rainbows of dragons.
        A few years before that I was making a Peter Pan hands on set for kids to learn with. It had 52 dolls and 11 sets that took 7 hours to set up at schools or for art shows. I included a rainbow dragon but never saw one before. It was a brilliant spring day and I was driving when suddenly I felt a small baby dragon in my hands..his warm little body. I went home and began making him and it came together as if by magic.! Now I’m a believer in Dragons….he is guardian or the mineral kingdom.
        We are a double evolution, one is Spirit anchoring and the other is of the elementals which is anchored into. Dragon energy is the elemental grist that beefs up and renews the elemental kingdom for earths manifestations.

  3. I have Sun at 6 Cancer, Jupiter at 15 Cancer, Mercury at 22 Cancer all in the 12th House. When Saturn was in Cancer aspecting my sun in 2003 I put up a website that went onto be quite influential on matters of collective karma regarding the environment, criminality, etc. It was during Saturn’s roll through my 12th that the site really got going.

    Quit the site almost 8 years due to severe burnout. Pluto was at 5 degree Capricorn transiting my 6th, opposing my Cancer Sun in the 12th when I made that decision Saturn was at approximately 7 degrees Libra passing through my 3rd. I think if I hadn’t quit I would have suffered either a physical (6th house) or mental (3rd HOuse) breakdown due to all the stress. I’ve felt better ever since so I don’t see it as a bad thing at all but to many in the outside world they would see walking away from such a project to be a huge step down in status and authority.

    Curious to hear from anybody else with a Cancer emphasis. Anything interesting happen when Saturn passed through back in 03, 04? Anything interesting happening now that Saturn is squaring early Cancer planets and Pluto opposing them?

    • Hi, Matt.
      My chart is a mirror image of yours…with Cap/Sun/ Chiron in the 12th conjunct the ASC as part of a Cardinal Cross… taking the same transiting hits from a slightly different perspective.
      In answer to your question: we early Cardinal’s felt the economic hit of ’08 earlier than others…we were the “canaries in the coalmine”.
      My time is short right now… but I do recognize your name…Your former web-site sounds like one I would have searched for.
      P.S. Pluto’s just getting started with us!

  4. Donna,
    Wow, it’s a real learning experience to watch you deconstruct John Edward’s chart! You rocked it.
    I’m sure that you get tired of saying that you are retired…(as we get tired of buying Dell just for your interpretations)…
    Please do more of these…I’m sure that your reader’s would glean much more from these forays than from the QandA’s..
    The QandA’s are great–but you know that they are not such a teachable moment …THIS is what people want…that’s why they continue to write to Dell. PLEASE?

    • Berta, I can’t do too many of these…total burnout on charts, after more than 40 years, and not of easy charts either—Outer Planet People, one and all, lots of sexual abuse victims, adult children of alcholics, people in recovery from various addictions. Donna

      • Thanks for your reply, Donna.
        Yeah, I hear ya…but it’s nice to see you get the groove going–when it moves you.
        One thing,- -how politicians rarely commit suicide? It’s so common for artists, musicians, writers, and other creative types?
        Where politicians, financial moguls, etc., merely “reconstruct”and “reinvent” (and RE-SELL) themselves? That disconnect is so telling…feeling versus using…
        Any comment on this?
        Just one more question, Mrs. Columbo…We’ve all had enough of the whiners looking for their “soulmates”…and brooding about their past choices….So what would you define as the highest, the most expedient and most usefull manifestation of astrological insight to be today? I’m just askin’ cause I trust you. Best, B.

      • Hmm. “how come politicians rarely commit suicide?” Well, I’d have to say that artists and other creative types are more Neptunian than anything else and maybe the ones that do commit suicide are lacking in self-preservation instincts, something that politicians apparently have in abundance. Politicians might be more Plutonian–into power and getting and keeping it, wheeling and dealing with the wealthy, who are also Plutonian…other people’s resources. These, of course, are the more negative uses of those planets. Then, of course, there’s Jupiter, which rules organized religion and lawmakers. Jupiter is not always the nice planet we like to think it is.

        “the highest, the most expedient and most usefull manifestation of astrological insight today?” It is today what it always has been–self-knowledge. Donna

      • There’s another way to look at buying Dell each month for what, the cost of a latte and scone at Starbuck? If it weren’t for what Dell pays me for writing the column, I’d be back to doing charts for clients, and then I wouldn’t have the time or mental energy to do this blog, which you get for free. So by supporting Dell, you’re making this blog possible. I believe that’s called giving back. Donna

  5. John Kerry was my candidate– and the fact that he didn’t do major diligence background checks on John Edwards will always reflect on his abilities.
    My take on their composite charts is that Kerry, being an honest man and a gentleman, was not inclined to persue the cynical background check that his advisors probably advised.
    Kerry was the real victim here… Elizabeth knew she was riding with a snake…but kept her chin up to the end…
    Edwards deserves nothing but our contempt.

  6. This is amazing! It gave me a better insight into stelliums in general, and confirmed my feeling – that the focus can be so intense on that area of life that it can literally define the person, and things not working out even once can be extremely devastating. This is true for me with my 6th house stellium of Mercury-Saturn-Pluto in Libra. Work does define my life, but not in the depressing way most would think. The problem here is that unemployment can lead me to severe depression. Also, a bad job can be worse than no job for me.

    I just had to look back at 2004, which was a hugely painful, severely bad time in my life, and was surprised and NOT surprised to see that transiting Saturn (in Cancer, through my 4th) was squaring my stellium! I went through the breakup of my work department, leading to loss of work…I decided to go back to college, which turned out to be a huge mistake at that point, as I was also going through my first relationship, which turned into me being yet another victim of domestic violence. Everything fell apart and it took me a long, long time to rebuild. I’m now heading towards transiting Saturn conjuncting these planets (and yup, I’m going to have my Saturn return, exact in October!). I’m slowly building a new future in my actual career path – once Saturn was not exactly squaring my stellium I did manage to go back to college and graduated with a degree in science. Seems things might be turning around for me now.

  7. Just saw his Mug shot earlier today. The man is smiling and everyone I know is talking about it! must be that 12 house jupiter?

  8. All I will say is that was amazing article. You know your stuff, Donna.
    And, yes, your contributions to Dell are the only reason I continue to subscribe.

  9. This was a really neat article, Donna – it was really enlightening to see how the transits rocked his chart & life.

    I don’t technically have a stellium, but I have Moon, Sun and Venus all closely conjunct in Aquarius. And I can definitely attest to the fact that when transits come along and hit each one of them in succession (especially when it’s a transiting outer planet), it rocks my life. I pay very close attention to what’s happening or what COULD happen when I know my Moon/Sun/Venus is going to get touched!

  10. Transits to stellium in general are quite complicated in my opinion. With the Jupiter cycle of about 12 years, you get about 2 years (trine) out of 12 years that may be good & easy-flowing, assuming the stellium occupies 30 degrees. Then with Saturn cycle of about 29.5 years, you get about 2.5 challenging years x 4 strikes (2 squares, opposition/conjunction) out of 29.5 years. That’s almost one third of the cycle. Uranus/Neptune/Pluto cycles are much longer, and there comes in the personal “fate”.
    Managing the good/bad times between Jupiter/Saturn combo is actually difficult enough.

    I’m finishing up Uranus opposition cycles to my stellium (of Mercury,Mars,Sun,Moon,Pluto), and it has been a huge roller-coaster ride. Unfortunately I cannot tell how everything is going to end when it finishes.

    Then I have Neptune opposition cycle that will begin shortly (through Pisces). I’m a bit fearful of what is yet to come. Oh, and Chiron opposition too together.

    Pluto trine to stellium cycle just started. Pluto trine my Mercury is so profound that I’ve learned an incredible amount of astrology in such a short time. I still want to learn more (since the trine is not finished yet), but I seem to have run out of things to learn from books/websites alone.

    My life is carved into the astro natal wheel. Life events are accurate to the very day. I often feel like that I’m the Alice who needs to gather all the courage to fight the final dragon, even when I “know” (just a little) what is ahead of me.

    Not sure where the free will is, but certainly things don’t happen by chance.

    • Thanks for sharing your transits to that stellium, Nathan. It sounds intense. It’s all in how we handle them, I think. If we are wise enough to apply ourselves and work hard–as you are with the Pluto trine to Mercury–we can grow a great deal and make great progress toward developing our potentials.

      I recall Neptune’s oppositions to my Gemini stellium in my late 20s as a major spiritual awakening, my introduction to astrology and other metaphysical studies and often quite blissful. Before that, I was a miserable, depressed atheist with little hope. Donna

    • PS. I hope you come to the Q&A session on Saturday about transits to stelliums. You’re already doing quite a lot of thinking about that and so are ahead of many of my readers, but there’s still quite a lot more to learn. Donna

      • I’d love to join the Q&A if I can make it. Hopefully, I could drop my family somewhere to make it. Last time I couldn’t find out how to join, and missed it completely.

        Neptune in my natal chart is some career confusion, but other than that, it is mostly (over-)idealism and higher spirituality (which is partly the cause of my career confusion). I hope when Neptune comes, it will manifest thru more positive ways as you sort of described. I think the positive manifestation will somehow depend on how Uranus finishes (if I can overcome my current life challenges). We will see.

      • But now you know how to join, right? Just download the page at the top of that post that has all the instructions. And look in the comment section for the questions and the answers. Donna

    • Nathan,
      You are not “carved into” that stellium…You were born a man with a mission…one of self discovery that your loved ones might not understand,– but one that only you can project into the world in a loving sense.
      Please continue your astrological studies . You have a lot to offer the world. Best wishes, B.

      • I have yet to meet a person who has a strong willpower to stay-up everyday, sleeping on the average of 4 hours for five straight months, possibly only sleeping every other 24 to 40 hours. My Sun/Mars conjunction is essentially exact, which grants me this will-power. That period in my life “was triggered” by Saturn oppose Pluto: Take great care not to damage your health through overwork (quote from Hand’s transit book). I went back and checked the period of the transit, and it didn’t last that long. Yes, indeed I had the free will to elect even more overwork that God has planned for me.

        But my free will didn’t change any timing of the subsequent life events/details, or before that. I didn’t believe in the “stupid” orb of transits, until I’ve gone through numerous events where the orb for the transits that I’ve checked is exactly 1 degree before and after. No more and no less, and the (Placidus/Topocentric) house boundaries are pretty much exact for me (all based on eternal events that I couldn’t have any personal controls over).

        My progressed Sun will be going into Scorpio (depth/ambition), and I truly believe that I have a mission ahead of me to exert my maximum effort in changing the world around me. I’m coming out of a 30-year in Libra, where I’ve learned the Great Balance between internal/external worlds and self/others. The mission is not told by God, but rather (have always) instilled by 10th/11th house Neptune, and 11th/12th house Jupiter. I’ve got the last fight with Uranus oppose Pluto, and I just don’t know how it’s going to transform my life. For the love of God & others, I must succeed, but if I don’t, it will be God’s will as well. I know effort-wise, I would have done my best.

        I have an almost exact Sun bi-septile Jupiter, and from
        Sun septile Jupiter
        You came into this life with an agenda, you have a teaching or a gift that you feel compelled to share. You are often in leadership roles (probably not true), and your life purpose is based upon this divine imperative, even when you are not especially conscious of it. A very fateful life.

        Uranus will be in my 3rd house. Not sure if I would meet my spiritual guru and/or astrology teacher then, but I’m sure I will be continuing my astro studies for quite a long time.

  11. It reminds me of the classic Greek tragedies where man fails because of the capricious actions of the gods. Unlike an American tragedy, we just do it to ourselves…

    • Ditto….I met the enemy and it was me.

  12. Stelliums are tough!

    I guess the best thing I can do is find a book about transits and read up about how they will affect the planets in those houses.

    Living to learn,

  13. Donna and Berta,
    I think the best advantage of Astrology is that it gives you an objective look at yourself and others.

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