Bernie Madoff: An Overview Using Modern & Traditional Methods

The recent documentary series on Netflix detailing Bernie Madoff’s massive $65 billion Ponzi scheme has sparked a renewed interest in this particular scenario, one of the largest instances of fraud in history. While there is much to learn from this horrible example, Madoff’s astrological dynamics also offer some interesting insights not only into his inner workings, but also how his life manifested.

General Personality

Madoff’s natal chart (whole sign chart above) is fairly straight forward. Given the focus of his life, it is not surprising to see a Stellium of planetary bodies in the 10th house of career. It is also equally significant that all of these bodies are in the zodiacal sign of Taurus, a sign quality with a reputation for enjoying the finer things in life, a with focus on wealth/value and strong predisposition for security. As the founder of one of the largest investment firms in New York, these placements offer some logical correlations. Both Madoff’s Sun and Moon are involved with this Stellium (with his Sun as chart ruler) so his career ambitions were a singular area of focus and satisfaction for him. Quite literally, he defined himself through his career and reputation and this career would involving managing money and investments of value.

Uranus’ involvement in this Stellium is reflected in Madoff’s entrepreneurial spirit in incorporating technology to enhance the efficiency of trades. At the time, it was a revolutionary new approach in his industry and he received much recognition of his efforts. Unfortunately, Uranus also reflects the drastic change, chaos and upheaval that he would eventually experience in his career as well.

In further evaluating his career potential, we must also consider the planets closely aligned to the cusp of the 10th (midheaven – MC). Here, Venus is in the sign of its rulership and within seven degrees of conjunction to the MC. Venus is very strong so it is beneficial and supportive, but it is also placed at the last degree of Taurus. Last degrees of a sign are considered significant or “critical”. The 29th degree has been specifically termed anaretic. Anaretic planets are said to be in a state of crisis. Their actions can be challenging, extreme and exacerbated. For Madoff, Venus is also in sextile aspect to Pluto, the ruler of the 4th house of family and early life. According to his biography, Madoff’s early life was challenging due to his father’s many failed businesses and resulting struggles. It has been suggested that these struggles “scarred” Madoff and motivated him to become successful by any means necessary. If accurate, this would also be a fitting delineation of a 10th house anaretic Venus in aspect to Pluto. Madoff was willing to do anything to make money to maintain security (Taurus) through his career. This combination probably gave Madoff an obsessive demeanor towards pursuing these things.

The Moon echoes the dynamics from Venus because it is also placed in Taurus and in loose aspect (waning square) to Pluto. But instead of a sextile, the Moon is in square aspect, a much stronger aspect that compels action. Considering that the Moon is a natural significator for family and early home life, the square represents a strong urge (desperation?) to find security. Because Madoff’s emotional security (Moon) is tied into this, his drive to maintain security can’t be overstated. Venus and the Moon (which is disposited by Venus) working in tandem create a dynamic that would motivate Madoff to compromise his integrity in order to make money, solidify his finances and security within his career.

Speaking of money, Madoff’s 2nd house Neptune offers another major correlation to his behavior. The 2nd house is the area of life that represents an individual’s money and resources and Neptune deals with illusions, deception or anything that is generally not real. Neptune is retrograde so the deception that Madoff created in the form of his Ponzi scheme was one that he played close to the chest. Not even his wife or children knew about it. These potentials become clearer when we consider Neptune’s opposition to the midpoint of Saturn and Jupiter. Combinations between Saturn and Jupiter are typically seen as signatures for “big business”. With Saturn ruling the 7th house of others, Jupiter’s placement on the descendant (the 7th cusp) and rulership of the 8th house of other people’s money, it is clear that Madoff made his money by duping other people out of theirs’.

This examination of Madoff’s 2nd house naturally then leads to its ruler, Mercury. Mercury is retrograde, square Pluto and in mutual reception with Mars. Because of its relationship to Pluto, some of the dynamics we evaluated with Venus and Moon extend over here as well and impact his thinking and communication. Madoff was very crafty and quite cut throat in coming up with schemes to trick others. Again, Mercury’s connection to the 2nd house confirms that his thinking and planning all revolved around making money. Pluto’s involvement reflects how Madoff was willing to do some things behind the scenes that were underhanded in order to achieve that goal.

Triplicity Rulers of Sect Light

So far, these delineations reflect many modern astrological methodologies of interpretation, but traditional theory offers many areas of specificity that are so accurate it can be a little shocking. One area that I find most interesting is the triplicity rulers of the sect light. This methodology divides up a life into sections according to these rulers in order to get a high-level view of how a life may manifest. While it does not offer exact timing of certain events, it still provides a fairly accurate depiction of the major themes and quality of life applicable to each section.

In order to determine these rulers, we must first determine the sect light. This light would either be the Sun or Moon. In a diurnal (day) chart the Sun would be considered the sect light. In a nocturnal (night) chart the Moon would be considered the sect light.

Once the sect light has been identified, then the triplicity rulers can be easily determined. Each elemental triplicity I assigned three rulers: a diurnal ruler, a nocturnal ruler and a cooperative ruler. Respectively, this would be represented as follows:


According to this Hellenistic methodology, the first two rulers govern different sections of a life with the third (cooperating) ruler adding emphasis to both sections.

In determining the “eminence”, fame or success of any particular section, the angularity of the ruler is the primary characteristic. If the ruler is located in any of the angular houses (1st, 4th, 7th, 10th), then that timeframe of life is seen to be beneficial, successful and/or eminent. If succedent (2nd, 5th, 8th, 11th), then the life will be considered average. It won’t be horrible, but it also will not be extremely successful either. If cadent (3rd, 6th, 9th, 12th), then the life will be declining, weak and without any power.

For lower priority characteristics, the following are also considered:

  • Planetary dignity
  • Combustion
  • Aspects (or relation) to the sect lights
  • Aspects to malefics/benefics
  • Aspects to Part of Fortune
  • Aspects to Ascendant
  • Triplicity ruler dispositor condition

For a diurnal chart, the order of these sections of life will follow the listings above. For a nocturnal chart, you just need to switch the order to the 1st and 2nd rulers.

In regards to timing, the length of duration corresponds to the ascensional time of the sign that each ruler is placed. These ascensional times are based on birth latitude and can be cross referenced online.

It should be noted, that medieval and Arabic astrologers used the 3rd ruler as representing the 3rd section of life. Due to the longer lengths of life associated with most individuals, I will follow this deviation from the Hellenistic methodology as well.

Madoff – Chapters of Life

The Sun is the sect light and placed in an earth sign so the triplicity rulers are Venus, Moon and Mars. These rulers would represent the quality of Madoff’s three sections of life. Taurus’ ascensional time for Madoff’s birth latitude is 21.5 minutes, so this would equate to 21.5 years. This means that the duration of his first two sections of life would end around the age of 43 at which point Mars would then take over.

As we noted in the modern delineation, Venus is angular, in the sign of its rulership, aligned with the MC and square Jupiter, the part of fortune and Ascendant. The strength of this ruler corresponds with the start of his investment company shortly after college.

The Moon took over around the age of 22 and represented Madoff’s swift rise to success in managing and growing the wealth of his clients. While the Moon is combust, it is also angular, dignified by exaltation and connected to powerful Venus via dispositorship. This connection is a huge boost to effectiveness in this area of life. The tandem referenced above in the psychological delineation manifested more tangibly here. These two bodies worked together to make Madoff rich.

Around 1981, Mars took over as the ruler and lasted 29 years until 2010. Mars’ condition is drastically different from the 1st two rulers. It is succedent and a malefic in opposite to sect. Obviously, this ruler’s effectiveness will not be as strong, but it’s malefic nature becomes specifically bad during this timeframe. Additionally, Mars has no dignity and is in mutual reception with Mercury who is cadent and also has no dignity. These considerations as well as, possibly, Mercury’s retrograde status and tight square to Pluto exacerbate Mars’ evil nature.

There is also one more major testimony that comes from the modern toolbox that I believe adds considerable foreshadowing to the events of this time fame. Mars is in partile conjunction with the midpoint of Saturn and Pluto. With the “karmic” reputation of both of these bodies, it highlights the heavy (and destructive) repercussions that will befall Mars if it behaves badly.

In terms of the general timing of these things, consider the following pieces of evidence from the Madoff investigation:

  • Madoff confessed that the fraud began in the early 1990’s, but his right-hand man, Frank Dipascali, said it started as early as he can remember. Dipascali was hired in 1975.
  • In a 1992 interview with the Wall Street Journal, Madoff admitted that he changed investment strategies in 1982 (one year after the Mars transition). The rest of the article questioned the consistent and improbable high rates of return that Madoff achieved for his clients, even during the stock market crash of 1987. The article also cited the firm’s lack of transparency and reporting that was later identified as critical.

Given this, I am inclined to believe that Madoff’s fraudulent activities began in the 1980’s, probably close to the year when Mars took over as the ruler of that timeframe of his life.

The problem is that Madoff wasn’t actually caught until 2008. If Mars was in such poor condition, then how was Madoff able to last so long? I think this has to do with the Mars’ succedent placement. Rulers placed here are not weak or strong, but able to maintain. Madoff was investigated or examined six times over 16 years, but never caught and always released. Despite all these investigations (retrograde) by the SEC (9th house Mercury), they did not want to prosecute Madoff because they liked and trusted him (mutual reception). The combination of the mutual reception and succedent placement kept him out of harm’s way until the “perfect storm” of transits that occurred when the 2008 financial crisis specifically aspected his chart.[1] At that point in time the full weight of the “natal promise” from the Saturn/Pluto midpoint was realized and they hit hard. It wiped out his organization, sent him to prison along with many other conspirators, took all his assets, left his wife homeless and resulted in the suicides of multiple people around him, including one of his sons. Most significantly, Madoff’s destruction also resulted in the financial destruction of thousands of other people connected to him and his organization worldwide. These massive ripple effects of manifestation strongly reflect the destructive capacity of Saturn-Pluto.

The interesting contrasts that the triplicity rulers reveal for the sections of Madoff’s life are stark. It is almost as if he lived two different lives. His surreal fall from grace is reflected in the equally stark variation of strength of the rulers for the first two chapters of life compared to ruler of its final phase which he spent running from investigations until the whole enterprise collapsed.

Most significantly, the delineation for these triplicity rulers echo the potentials contained within the more psychological delineations of the natal chart. Together, they paint a fairly compelling picture as well as offer possibilities of how the two approaches can benefit each together.

End Notes

[1] The purpose of this article is not to offer precise timing of manifestation, but to show a brief overview of the general personality and their life themes. If interested, I would suggest a follow up analysis that incorporates transits, solar arcs, progressions, returns, zodiacal releasing and profections in analyzing the specific timing of events. Confirming when the fraud began would be particularly informative.

[2] Cover image provided via Shutterstock subscription.

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