"There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living." - Nelson Mandela
It can certainly be said that Nelson Mandela, who died on December 5th at the age of 95, lived his life with a passion that moved him, and by extension his country, to extraordinary capability. Activist, freedom fighter, world leader and inspiration to millions, he exhibited impressive strength in determination with equally impressive poise. His legacy will live on long after most of his contemporaries on the world stage have passed from memory.
The astrological picture is of a soul that has for many lifetimes been exploring every possible facet of shared emotional experience, from bonding to betrayal, possession to abandonment, in order to understand the very foundations of human nature. Through this, Mandela's soul developed the capacity to understand the emotional realities of others and this had the natural effect of creating a deeply abiding compassion, allowing him to withstand personal suffering for the cause of ending suffering for others. He came into this life readied by lifetimes of learning and service so he could bring forth his own light of truth, kept ignited by faith in a better future and the will to be "the captain of my soul". But to do so he had to come to terms with his flaws while making great sacrifices for the work that would define his life.
Nelson Mandela embodied many of the qualities of his native Sun sign of Cancer, where we also find a conjunction of Jupiter and Pluto. His was a soul well accustomed to feeling and nurturing, willing to give himself to defend the underserved. When we place that Jupiter/Pluto conjunction in the 7th house, now we see a man desiring to bond with others for a common purpose, naturally possessing the ability to put himself in another's shoes, to know instinctively how another person feels. This is an important trait for a diplomat, and it's hard to imagine a more striking set of astrological symbols for emotional sensitivity.
With the Jupiter/Pluto conjunction at a square to his 4th house Aries Chiron, itself ruled by Mars in Libra squaring Pluto, he came into this life with quite a bit of unresolved anger, reflected in the emotional wounds created by a fractured family upbringing. It also suggests his passion for the freedom of his people was driven in part by a "need to be needed," feeling emotionally validated by being a martyr for his cause. His South Node in Gemini is conjunct Venus, adding more weight to the 7th house/Libra symbols, the primary clue that establishes that, on a personal level, he desired to evolve his perspective and behavior in relationship. This symbol is suggestive of someone who would always be seeking a better relationship, having great difficulty in committing to a single partner. Indeed, this was the case for Mandela, who was married three times and known for his infidelities. His Libra Mars and its aspects show a constant frustration and restlessness in relationship, yet when we factor in the 7th house Pluto, we can understand that his deeper desire was to move beyond his own fears and attachments that prevented lasting authentic bonding with a single partner.
But to get the personal connection he desired he had to learn how to make himself, to publicly define who he was and what he stood for (1st house Capricorn Pluto polarity). His way of defining himself came through service based in faith in higher truth — "freedom for all" (Sag. North Node in the 12th conjunct Ascendant), which would have naturally catalyzed the relationships that would propel his personal evolutionary journey. He could have easily succumbed to desires to control others as his personal power grew, but he wisely chose to cycle the power he gained back into service (South Node in the 6th).
Mandela's Libran qualities kept up a seemingly calm and cool poise, but underneath would have seethed a powerful force of nature (12th house Scorpio Moon), equally capable of courageous sacrifice or a venomous strike. Given the markers of brilliance and great mental discipline — Uranus retrograde in Aquarius in the 3rd, Mercury/Saturn conjunction — he had the ability to consider how his actions served his purposes rather than just striking blindly or vengefully.
One of Mandela's greatest triumphs was to emerge from a 27 year long imprisonment without any external trace of animosity towards his captors or political enemies, sung the world over as a hero for human rights. Here we see he made significant headway in healing both his powerful but wounded emotions (Scorpio Moon squaring Saturn/Mercury) as well as his dependency on validation from others (Cancer Pluto in the 7th). The self knowledge and purification that resulted from his imprisonment allowed him to move to his next level of self determination, taking his place as a highly respected world leader, becoming South Africa's first black president and ending apartheid. Incidentally, Mandela's imprisonment was heralded by his progressed Saturn squaring his Lunar Nodes, a symbol of long term intense work designed to initiate a life purpose.
Nelson Mandela lived as a shining example of what a person can achieve when remaining steadfastly committed to their heart's calling. Astrologically we are privileged with a peek into the dynamics of his soul, seeing how great emotional tension can be channeled into service to a collective cause. May we all learn from such an example, that with courage and faith in the human spirit we can rise to the challenges of our world and give all that we are — flaws and strengths alike — to whomever can most benefit from our work.