Frida, always her own favorite model, was not about preserving youthful beauty so much as identifying herself with Mexico, her beloved homeland. Frida’s “acquired birth year” just so happens to coincide with the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution (1910) and the overthrow of President Porfirio Diaz.
If her glaring lie seems jarring and incongruous – disturbing, even, in the face of her usual unabashed candor – reflect for a moment on the juxtaposed images that characterize her paintings. Frida never allowed apparent facts – her own birth certificate, for instance – to get in the way of a higher truth; the truth in this case being that she and modern Mexico were inextricably bound in both revolution and renaissance.
An understanding of Frida Kahlo, the person as well as the paintings, requires a setting aside of conventional thoughts – and dates, as the case may be. At the same time, paradoxically enough, it requires the context of history. She was a revolutionary artist born amidst political chaos in her homeland; born in the year of its own bloody rebirth, give or take a couple years. That image, according to the artist, is more truthful than fact itself. It would be quibbling to disagree.
The natal chart can be used as deeply revelatory compass. To erect a natal chart, so much depends on precise birth information. And yet the joy derived from Kahlo’s claiming her birth year as the year of her country’s birth instead of her own is so momentous for Kahlo, and so titillating for me, that I happily overlook this triviality. Especially since astro databank has referred to her birth certificate for her precise data.
There are many places to begin to enter Frida Kahlo’s chart. That multiplicity itself is indicative of all the openings Frida Kahlo embodied, from her personal frankness of her own pain, to the brokenness of her body — which to served as a mortal portal unfit for the grandness of her mission. If we assume she had one. But one must begin somewhere, and we’ll go on exploring until we are filled up or until we or her spirit have had enough.
We could start by walking carefully into the stellium in Cancer in the 11th Sun conjunct Neptune, both conjunct Jupiter and her North Node— a lover of the rich culture of home and homeland and the varying groups of peoples who live there, people who make home a breathing, sprawling womb, sustaining life. People who are supported by the systems of the homeland, and who in turn support and nourish the homeland.
If we started there, we’d find this theme repeated again with her Mars-Uranus conjunction in Capricorn, opposing that stellium. Valiant, dogged protection, exaltation of an idealized land that brings joy, wisdom, refinement, solidity and security in that it goes on existing.
Or, we look over to the Moon in Taurus, exalted, crowning her chart, disposed of by her Venus-Pluto conjunction straddling the 10th and 11th houses, fating and damning her to give form to her pain publicly, while needling us to inhabit her pain with her, through her artfully unabashed willingness to openly share the tenderly aching details of her personal life.
The Moon in the 10th, dispositor of the stellium in Cancer, gives form to her rich 11th house revolutionary proclivities, all her Venus Pluto devastation by locality, all her 12th house inward, inescapable, incendiary meanderings, and expresses this, instinctually, no other way but to, for all to see.
So much of Kahlo’s life served to ruinously alienate her, and it shows in her chart. The crucial opposition from the 11th to the 5th makes her profound and fecund in her isolation and while deeply feeling its throbbing loneliness, she stands apart from it and painstakingly makes visual poetry of it.
While Pisces has much to do with suffering and Saturn in that sign and in the 8th, doubly so; Kahlo, by giving poetic form to her suffering, transmuted (Saturn in the 8th) her art into iconic portals of transformation for all of us, in an act that transcends time, place, and political disposition. We sit with them and consider her, and her world reveals itself in the layers of her skirts. We lose ourselves in her vastness. We discover our own riches through the iterations of herself that give life to all the faces of her many hidden and visible wounds.
I paint myself because I am so often alone, because I am the subject I know best. ~Frida Kahlo
South node in Capricorn, ruler of the south node, Saturn in Pisces, in the 8th house, profound suffering, the suffering of ages and aeons. Carrying the load of generations, an attempt at lightening with the brush. No other choice.
We could say that momentous decision to carry the birth year of her country, discarding her own literal moment of birth, invoked and damned and blessed her to bear the process of her country’s gestation, its emergence into the starkness of life, no longer cradled by some despairing amniotic fluid, the wounds and chaos from which nothing escapes. This is the effect of Neptune conjunct Sun in Cancer, Moon sextile an 8th house Saturn in Pisces. She was Mexico’s body for a 1910 birth canal, in spite of her own mortal and crippled organs. She suffered and through her flesh and her brush gave Mexico and all of us life.
If I had to make a final assessment, (but I’d like to contend there is no final assessment—not in life nor for Frida Kahlo— so much of her chart is endless), I would say Frida was ultimately seeking a profound nurturing that could only come from knowing that her homeland was lush and secure, its people were cared for, its systems advanced and thriving. I think she would have liked to to see rivers overflowing with fish for fishermen to catch and feed their families, and mothers seated in front of fires, tending to their aromatic contents to fill the bellies of their children and friends of their children. Strong children and friends who climb the vines crawling up the trunks of ancient trees hidden in the forests beyond the homes in the neighborhood.
While Kahlo’s chart shows someone who would revel in the simple security of a blooming homeland, her overreaching idealism as a visionary devastated the composition of a mortal body that finds the weight of an entire earthy terrain and all its stories difficult to bear. Not despite, but through her devastation, she fashioned herself into a visionary and created for us the numerous postures of a woman suffering.
If we assume, just for kicks, that Karma works in such a linear way, in the way we all might like it too, it would be fun to entertain the notion that Kahlo disposed of many lifetimes worth of baggage during her life. We might wonder if she has incarnated again. If her soul is still troubled. If she still feels responsible to carry the weight of a whole piece of earth. If she is suffering the possible consequences of possible suicide. If the morsels she gave us to chew with the teeth of our souls nourished hers too.
There is no definitive way to end an attempt at discovering Frida Kahlo. Just as there were so many ways to enter her, and so many ways to be interested in her.
Kahlo lived and went on living, despite herself, I think. She was regenerated by the weight of the load she carried. There was something sweet and nourishing in the excruciation she lived. In her work she presented as a lush and sprawling oasis, with many hideaways waiting to be found, and tempting treasures in each one, so comforting and disturbing, — whichever way our souls need to be spoken to, really — that we want to set up camp, warm our bodies by the fire and tell stories of a homeland that beckons and pulls at our souls, a homeland we love.
image: Frida with a White Dress Hanging – 1934-5, Manuel Alvarez Bravo