At 180 miles
per hour, the tiniest miscalculation can mean the difference between life
and death, between triumph and heartbreaking tragedy. Sadly, that’s how
we lost the most beloved and most feared driver in Nascar, Dale Earnhardt,
Sr. “The Intimidator” died as he lived at Daytona. Determined to fend
off Sterling Marlin’s advance and seal a brilliant win-place-show finish
for his team, Earnhardt lost control of his famous black Chevy for one
fleeting fraction of a second, hitting the wall on the final turn. He
was killed immediately on impact.
is dangerous, period. That they don’t suffer fatalities in every race
is a credit to the skill of both the drivers and the safety engineers.
These guys are good, very good. They know exactly how much is at stake
and they love what they do. Dale Earnhardt drove with a skill and precision
unparalleled in the field, but even the best make mistakes, especially
when driving under particularly difficult astrological influences.
transits can actually increase concentration and perception, while others,
for instance stressful aspects from Neptune, can temporarily scatter the
wits, resulting in lapses of judgment.
At the time
of the crash, Earnhardt was experiencing a difficult Neptune transit that
may very well have triggered his deadly miscalculation. The same Neptune
influence has also, in death, lifted him to legendary status, both as
a hero for the common man and a tragic symbol of loss.
Taurus, born on April 29, 1951, at 1:07 pm EST in Cabarrus, North Carolina,
Earnhardt could serve as a textbook example of that strong-willed, down-to-earth
sign. The salt of the earth himself, Earnhardt had the Sun, Mercury and
Mars in Taurus, clustered high in the sky near his Taurus Midheaven. The
Midheaven is the doorway to the “career house” in the birth chart. Earnhardt’s
gritty mystique and utter unpretentiousness endeared him to anybody who
ever had to earn it the hard way. In a sport that caters to a vast blue-collar
fan base, Earnhardt was a constant: a hard-working driver who never got
above his raising.
entertainer and a leader in his field, Earnhardt was born with the sign
Leo rising on the Ascendant. The Ascendant is the point on the eastern
horizon when we are born, and it shows how others perceive us. The planet
associated with the sign that is found at the Ascendant is said to “rule”
or “take care of” the chart. Consequently, Earhardt’s Sun, the ruler of
Leo, also serves as the ruler of his chart. This puts a special emphasis
on the Sun’s influence throughout his life.
Accident and Neptune
it was his proud Taurus Sun that was under stress from Neptune at the
time of the accident. Although Earnhardt was pronounced dead at Halifax
Hospital on February 18, 2001 at 5:16 pm EST, the crash occurred approximately
one hour earlier, as transiting Neptune was crossing the current
Descendant (in the chart for the time of the accident, not in Earnhardt’s birth chart).
is opposite the Ascendant, on the western horizon. Planets close to the
Ascendant, Descendant, Midheaven and Imum Colei, also known as the four
angles, figure prominently in a chart. The most angular (closest to an
angle) transiting planet at the time of the accident was Neptune, and
its influence was magnified and hard to miss. At 7 degrees Aquarius, Neptune
was closing in on a difficult 90-degree square aspect to Earnhardt’s Sun
at 8 degrees Taurus. The square aspect puts two planetary forces at odds
with each other, creating a dynamic tension that often manifests as obstacles
of Neptune tends to diffuse, rather than concentrate, to confuse rather
than clarify. It’s a spacey planet, blurring the boundaries and clouding
the senses. It’s also a profoundly spiritual planet, over-activating the
unconscious mind, and inspiring legends and poetry of an almost painful
beauty. In Earnhardt’s one untimely maneuver, a legend was born that will
haunt us with anguished fascination as his sad and beautiful story is
told and retold.
Lessons from Saturn?
But why did
he have to die? Earnhardt had suffered and survived worse accidents before.
Earlier in the same race, a horrific eighteen-car pileup resulted in nothing
more than a concussion! Not one to presume to have all the answers, I
can offer an astrological explanation of the timing, which, while incommensurate
with the depth and gravity of this kind of question, can at least help
us to place the event within its chronological context.
When we arrive
at the subject of timing, of endings, limits and the hardest lessons we
must endure, we have entered the realm of the planet Saturn, the ultimate
disciplinarian and timekeeper. The developmental tasks that Saturn lays
before us demand our utmost in maturity and self-control. Saturn is rarely,
if ever, easy, but if we embrace, rather than avoid, the challenges, Saturn
can bring more lasting rewards than any other influence.
24, 2000 until February 25, 2001, transiting Saturn could be found at
24 degrees of Taurus, in a difficult 90-degree square aspect to both Earnhardt’s
Leo Ascendant and his Aquarius Moon. Saturn spent such a long time on
that particular degree because it made a station there, appearing to slow
down to a standstill and change directions from retrograde (backward)
motion to direct (forward) motion. A long, slow station like that places
an extreme emphasis on that particular degree area. In retrospect, it
would appear that the combination of stresses on both his Ascendant, and
his Ascendant ruler (the Sun) marked the end of Earnhardt’s road.
death, like his remarkable life, was a public event, affecting us even
more in his passing than he had in a lifetime of winning. Perhaps in time,
his death could spur improvements in Nascar that could save the lives
of future drivers; drivers forever inspired by his memory who would gladly
risk it all to live life as well as he did.