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After an absence of 27 years, detective John Shaft returns to the screen. Shaft was originally portrayed by Richard Roundtree, who became something of an icon during the 1970s period of "Blaxploitation" films. Roundtree played Shaft in three films, Shaft, Shaft's Big Score and Shaft in Africa.

This brings us to the latest incarnation of the character. In this film, Samuel L. Jackson plays Shaft's nephew, a New York cop, who at the end of the film becomes disgusted with the justice system, hurls his badge at a judge and goes freelance. Let's take a look at the horoscope of the new John Shaft, played by Samuel L. Jackson–Shaft for the new millennium.

Jackson was born Dec. 21, 1948, so his Sun is right on the cusp of Sagittarius and Capricorn. We don't have the precise birth time for Sam Jackson, and in this case, perhaps that lack of detail may be an aid to understanding the complex personality of an individual who has at various times been a social worker who busted fake welfare mothers, a student activist who got kicked out of Morehouse College after seizing the administration building, a crack cocaine addict who kicked his habit only to get his first major role as a crack addict, married 30 years to the same woman and who has worked assiduously since college days to become an actor.

Seriousness Combined with Boldness

The Sun in Samuel Jackson's chart sits on the line between Sagittarius and Capricorn. Normally I like to think that the Sun is either in all one sign or another, but in this case, a blend of Capricorn ambition, seriousness and drive with Sagittarian boldness and dash is very descriptive of Jackson.

Jackson was born in Washington, D.C., but was raised in Chatanooga, Tennessee by aunts, uncles and grandparents. He said in a recent Washington Post interview that it "was a good life." The Moon in the birthchart represents our mother, childhood and early nurturing. On the day Jackson was born, the Moon was transiting close to Saturn, the planet of hard times, although we cannot say how close these two planets were without Jackson’s exact time of birth. However, because the planets were in each others’ “neighborhood,” we may deduce that despite what he says about it, childhood for Jackson brought its share of problems.

Jackson’s mother did not live with him until he was in the fourth grade. Individuals with Moon in proximity to Saturn often experience some form of emotional deprivation in early life. Sometimes, as in Jackson's case, the mother is just not available to provide the early emotional nourishment vital to survival. Without that emotional foundation, Jackson's attitudes toward the feeling side of life may be somewhat suppressed.

This is something he may be aware of, since in the Post interview, he admitted that his wife, LaTanya Richardson, always told him that as an actor he had the body language, the right inflection, "But there's nothing coming out of here." she said, thumping his chest. Jackson says now he can "project that." And he admits that before "I was so numbed to that stuff I really didn't know I wasn't doing it."

The Heart of a Rebel

Jackson's father separated from his mother at their son’s birth, and Jackson’s horoscope shows the Sun, the astrological symbol for the father, in an opposition  aspect to Uranus, the disrupter. This aspect of Sam's horoscope shows that his father wanted his freedom and wasn't there for him to serve as a role model. Jackson has used the Capricorn energy of his Sun and the freedom-loving energy of Uranus to forge his own self-image. In many ways, Jackson is a self-made man.

But the connection of the Sun with Uranus also works to make Jackson something of a rebel himself. In the 1960s, he was expelled from Morehouse College after he and a group of students took over the administration building because the school had no black studies program. This in-your-face approach comes through forcefully in his portrayal of Shaft as a disenchanted cop who walks away from the system.

Strong Earth Element

The strongest feature of Samuel Jackson's horoscope is its earthiness. He has a total of five planets in earth signs—six if you count the Sun. Mercury, Mars and Jupiter are in Capricorn. His Mars is directed toward achievement, reaching the top of the mountain in his profession. Next to Mars, Jupiter provides a philosophy that can only be described as the "work ethic." You only earn what you work for, and Jackson is known for a no-nonsense attitude toward his profession. There were press reports of Jackson taking a somewhat critical view of Shaft director John Singleton, who slowed the production down to indulge in dalliances with female cast members.

Jackson's Moon is in earthy Virgo, providing a sense of discrimination, and again, an emotional need to work. As noted earlier, the Moon is close to Saturn, pointing to a tendency to really push himself. All of this practical, results-oriented earth energy is the key to Jackson's salvation. Sam publicly admits that he had a drug problem since his college days. He says peer pressure at Morehouse brought on his experimentation with marijuana. But experimentation grew to heavier drugs, and finally, in the 1980s, he became a crack addict and an alcoholic. In 1990, he says he came to a precipice. "It was doing crack that I came down to my knees," he said. He entered rehab and has been clean ever since.

But in a weird twist of fate, he was cast by Spike Lee just months later to play the role that was his breakthrough performance–the crackhead Gator Purify in Jungle Fever. Jackson said playing Gator was "cathartic." He had done the research and the performance shows it.

Drug problems are usually indicated in a horoscope by the planet Neptune, our urge to escape the mundane realms of life and to experience altered states. When used correctly, Neptune provides artistic inspiration or spiritual insight. In Sam's chart, we find Neptune in Libra making difficult square aspects to Mars and Jupiter. Mars is another male symbol in a horoscope, and can indicate how our fathers taught us to behave. With Mars in a tense aspect to Neptune, it isn't surprising to learn that Sam's father died of alcoholism. Jupiter is also involved in this configuration, upping the ante, adding to the manic urge for euphoric experience.

Saturn: The Reality Factor

In 1990, transiting Saturn was passing over Mars in Sam's chart, advising him it was time to clean up his act and he went into rehab. Saturn, the planet of reality, forces an individual to come to grips with his problems, and to take responsibility for himself. Through Saturn we learn the hard lessons of life, and either face our limitations or pay the price. Jackson’s basic earthy common sense came to his rescue during this Saturn transit. In the ten years since then, Sam has moved from playing character parts to leading man roles. In addition to Shaft, he has had lead roles in The Long Kiss Goodnight, A Time to Die, Rules of Engagement, Pulp Fiction and got a part as a Jedi Knight in Star Wars: Episode I, The Phantom Menace.

Saturn is currently in Taurus, a sign very friendly to Jackson's earth planets, indicating he is at the peak of his career. Bigger things lie in store as transiting Pluto in Sagittarius assists his Neptune, channeling creative imagination into bigger and better roles. At the recent MTV Movie Awards, Star Wars producer George Lucas dropped a hint that next year Jackson may be on stage getting an award for his part in the next Star Wars episode. Stay tuned.

Isaac Hayes' theme for the original Shaft had the lyric: "He's a complicated man, and no one understands him but his woman." But with the help of astrology, I think we've come to understand Samuel Jackson perhaps even better.



John M. Whalen is freelance writer, astrologer, and editor of a business publication based in Washington, D.C. He writes about film, TV, music and travel for various magazines and newspapers. He contributed a chapter on the life and films of director Sam Peckinpah to the new book, The Astrology of Film: The Interface of Movies, Myth, and Archetype.

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For more information about John Whalen, click here.

Other StarIQ articles by John Whalen:

  • Astro-Zen   3/10/2012
  • Astro-Zen   9/10/2004
  • Polarized Politics   8/20/2004
  • Saturn and the Vanquishing of Illusion   11/3/2003
  • The Grand Illusion   1/9/2003
  • Two Degrees of Scorpio   10/10/2002
  • Venus Elements   2/14/2002
  • Timothy McVeigh: The Day of Judgment   5/9/2001
  • Kevin Spacey: A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma   4/9/2001
  • Keanu Reeves' Excellent Adventure   3/8/2001
  • Steven Soderbergh: Putting the Cuffs on Oscar   3/5/2001
  • The Christmas Eclipse: Bringing Your Heart's Desire   12/25/2000
  • Robert DeNiro: Master of Form and Essence   11/18/2000
  • Sylvester Stallone: A Fallen Star, Rising Again?   10/28/2000
  • Yasser, Ehud, Can We Talk?   8/31/2000
  • Alec Guinness: Reluctant Jedi   8/19/2000
  • Human Genetics: O Brave New World!   8/16/2000
  • Survivor: Candid Camera Runs Amok   7/8/2000
  • Jackie Chan: Fearless Aries with the Comic Touch   6/23/2000

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