The nature of the 3rd house used to seem almost negligible to me. “Short journeys,” “neighbors” and “communication” hardly rated high on the list of what’s most important about life, or so I thought.
Yet through time and experience, it became clear to me that the 3rd house is misrepresented and underestimated. The 3/9 axis actually has much to do with how beliefs are formed, how we cognitively process life experiences and devise our comprehension of reality; not to mention the small daily experiences that form our worldview.
The mechanism by which all of these things become real to us is through language in all its forms: the simple words we learn to string together so as to communicate our basic needs and desires (3rd house); and on to the symbolic and theoretical realm of language-use, as expressed in the 9th house.
I tend to divide the 3rd and 9th into ‘small, personal world’ and ‘big, wide world’ world views and learning experiences. In one’s ‘small world,’ the ‘world’ or environment of one’s neighbors, brothers, sisters, and nearby surroundings, one begins to make sense of how the world works. It is in our small world that we begin to form opinions, expectations, and biases about “the” world, which are then tested in the 9th house, when we leave home and experience the larger, more impersonal world.
The 9th also becomes the place where we test, challenge, uphold or resist, the rules society lives by, but the unspoken rule about rules is that we first learned them in our immediate environment as a child; what you might call the ‘kindergarten rules’ of social behavior.
In the process of having an experience and then naming it, we begin to access what is so important about the ‘conversation’ between the 3rd and 9th houses, because we start to see how the world influences our thinking, and how our thinking affects the world.
Does Thinking Make It So? The 3rd House Conundrum in the Learning Process
Think about this: Our earliest childhood experiences happen without our attaching words to them. Instead, we feel something and respond (or stay quiet), but it isn’t until later, sometimes much later, that we learn to attach a word to what happened. In other words, our brains may be set up for language, but language cannot always explain our perceptions. For many experiences, language and words are inadequate.
There is a mental state of cognition that exists prior to language, to speech, to labels; we can call it our ‘felt sense,’ a term used by psychologists to describe the sense or perception of knowing something is so, without necessarily being able to label it or use language to describe it.
The idea of having this ‘felt sense’ originated with American philosopher Eugene Gendlin, whose research into psychological therapeutic settings caused him to conclude that clients healed better if they could access a non-verbal “bodily feel” of the reasons that brought them into therapy. Gendlin’s reliance on this pre-verbal state is based on the theory that interaction with the world comes before the individual forms concepts about the world.
This kind of knowing is contextual and dynamic; it does not rely on amassing stored wisdom, but instead responds situationally and is judged as either useful or non-useful given the circumstances and ability to think quickly and act effectively on one’s thoughts.
Key to contextual learning is that it is determined not by pre-existing (a priori) truth that the individual strives to discover, but instead is delimited by context (when, where, and how the experience occurs) and agency (what you can or can’t do about it). The circumstances that determine the way we learn and think are ‘situated.’
‘Situatedness’ means that learning and thinking does not occur through a mystical and inexplicable connection with the divine (sorry, Plato). Instead, learning, thinking, and knowing occur within a context, within a time frame, within a set of societal expectations. This way of looking at learning is called (big surprise) situated learning and situated cognition, and both are responses to empiricism.
Empiricists tend to believe that no one can know anything until a tremendous amount of information accrues and is then sifted through (this is great when your strength is independent research on an already-known topic, but not as good when you collaborate with others in an incubator environment with the intention of coming up with innovative methods to solve brand new problems where the research has not been done yet). Empiricists prefer using rote memorization as a method of learning; metaphorically, this process is like laying down bricks (of information) to construct a house (of knowledge).
Rationalists, on the other hand, tend to think that a thing can be known without direct sensory experience of the thing (that’s why you find more rationalist astrologers than otherwise, because the assertion that a planet’s rays do not literally flood through your brain and “make” you an Aries, let’s say, is much easier conducted with a rationalist than with an empiricist, who wants you to admit that astrology cannot work because a planet’s rays cannot flood your brain—that empircists cannot prove this probably drives them crazy, but I digress on a cloud of wishful thinking).
Contextualized learning, however, depends on lived experience (a much more fluid way of coming-to-knowledge than the Empirical method) to make mental connections between ideas we’ve already integrated, and new ideas we’re unfamiliar with.
I think you probably see a recognizable educational dilemma created around these styles of learning, as well as a potential dichotomy between 9th and 3rd methods of approach to learning, teaching, and knowing, particularly when you compare philosophies about teaching and learning that have changed over time.
Whereas as a society, we used to rely heavily on rote-learning, going brick by empirical brick, we tend to rely now on experiential learning, a much messier way of coming to knowing because it requires that the student be given time to reflect on his or her knowledge-acquisition. Rote learning requires no such self-reflexivity, and is arguably useless if you want a student to comprehend larger issues surrounding knowledge, such as ethics and morality, civic engagement, and social awareness of others.
Important Differences Between the 3rd and 9th Houses
While the 3rd house privileges praxis (pragmatic ways of enacting or embodying theory) the 9th is where theory and the theoretical is created. The 3rd house researches, the 9th publishes the research. The 3rd memorizes what someone else said, while the 9th synthesizes and forms a new thought.
Educationally, the 3rd represents K-12 learning, while the 9th represents formal or semi-formal educational institutions (adult annex learning courses are semi-formal, for example).
This is not to say that either style or approach is better or worse. In fact, they each work well at different times, for different purposes. However, it is undeniable to me that the 3rd represents contextual learning much more accurately than the 9th, which relies on accrued learning that leads to wisdom.
To be clear, the 3rd house process I’ve been describing is not the same as intuition, which is more properly a function of the 9th house by virtue of its association with Sagittarius, the sign we most often align with intuitive ability.
Intuition actually relies on often unconscious or subconscious awareness of evidence that the conscious mind does not know it knows; intuition therefore is not a cognitive process in the sense that one goes through a process of thinking about something so as to learn or know.
Also, intuition does not necessarily increase with time and use, and it is notorious for being unreliable. Intuition cannot necessarily ‘explain’ itself, and often relies on what is called, in the vernacular, one’s ‘gut’ (a metaphor for lived experience, it seems to me).
The Nature of the 3rd House Composite Sun Relationship
Now, having said all this, we move on to the nature of the 3rd house Sun in the composite chart. How can we expect it to function, and where should we expect to see it? What I’ve found is that one cannot underestimate the importance of what each person in the 3rd house composite Sun relationship thinks and says to one another, because these two can create their reality based on what they believe, the words they use, their ability (or lack of same) to be persuasive, as well as their overall intelligence (or stupidity, which is frequently based on flawed beliefs about reality).
3rd house composite Suns, more than any other, live their shared reality on a knife’s edge of the import of the words they use. Their beliefs can exalt them, but their misguided beliefs can get them killed. The nature of their shared learning experiences are key to the success or failure of this relationship; whether they love one another passionately only then to become as intimate as twins in the womb, their true bond lies with how they think and what they believe.
If you encounter this combination in a relationship chart (whether your own or someone else’s) be aware that the nature of this relationship is not romantic in the classical sense of the word. The 3rd house is influenced by the ‘natural’ ruler of Gemini, Mercury, which means that ideas come and go, and the base level of attraction is intellectual.
If one of the two bores the other, s/he will rapidly lose interest, although if the two are high-minded enough (look to the 9th house to determine the nature of their shared philosophy) then they will stay together longer than most couples who lack a coherent belief system or sense of the purpose of relationship. For these two, the purpose of relationship is to support one another, no matter what, unless there are other factors in the composite that say otherwise.
Composite Moon in Scorpio, Pisces planets, Sagittarius—these are the signs that do not necessarily do well within the entire context of a 3rd house relationship.
Composite Sagittarius stays as long as things are going well, but balks at complication, while composite Pisces (or Virgo) might worry themselves to death over something trivial, but still stay together (especially if things get difficult, since both Pisces and Virgo do better when they’re truly needed to focus on someone else). Moon in Scorpio here represents an emotional level of interest in each other than puts real strain on the often whimsical 3rd house Sun (but look to the actual sign of the composite Sun to see how the relationship withstands these depths).
This relationship seeks intellectual stimulation, of course, but the unspoken rules of this combination might very well rely on an idealized principle of ‘brotherhood,’ no matter the genders involved. Conversely, of course, the 3rd house composite Sun might very well be a temporary relationship based on friendship (formed during an educational experience) that only lasts as long as the relationship functions around the subject of intellectual stimulation of some kind. These composites base their relationship more on friendship, but the kind of friendship seen between Gemini’s twins, the friendship of kin.
Because of this, the relationship can last as long as both people are getting what they need (this is harder for the person whose chart is water-based than it is for the person whose chart is fire, earth, or air-based, though). Frustration with the 3rd house composite Sun relationship comes when friendship and ‘brotherhood’ cannot fulfill deeper needs of one or the other of the two involved.
Above all, however, communication in all its forms is foregrounded with this relationship, between each other but also the way the two communicate with the outside world. This relationship is most easily undermined by others who do not support the almost symbiotic mental energies that bind the two, making them form a world of their own.
3rd house composite Sun relationships tend to begin very early in life, or in educational environments; they can also begin, interestingly, in online situations, because the nature of the relationship starts out with communication, and might evolve into a “real” relationship or not. It is a brother/sister or sibling type of relationship, the basis of which is shared intellectual and sometimes spiritual interests.
The 3rd house Sun in a composite chart tells me that the two people will stay together longer if they believe the same things and function rather like twins. When one or the other person’s natal Sun is Cardinal, this relationship is much harder, since neither tends to think or act like the other, and finds self-definition through his or her unique way of being in the world.
A 3rd house composite Sun puts an emphasis on the natal 3/9 axis in the natal charts of the two people, as well as their natal Mercuries and Gemini planets (if they have any). As individuals, how do they already communicate before they enter the relationship? What beliefs do they share? What intellectual, cognitive, or moral and ethical differences will potentially cause friction?
The 3rd house Sun brings to awareness the fact that talking and ability to talk to one another does not mean the two actually communicate. Meaning is discoverable through the 9th house, so each person’s 3/9 axis must be accounted for, even if one or both people have this axis untenanted—then look to the signs on the cusps of the houses to see how the ruling planets are aspected.
Leopold and Loeb: Murderers influenced by Nietzsche’s philosophy of the “Übermensch”
As precocious teenagers, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb became influenced by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s theory of the übermensch, the “superman”, whose ability at total self-mastery combined with a desire to throw off the shackles of conventional, Christian society, Nietzsche postulated, permits him to devise his own morals and values, granting him immunity from the law.
Social laws accepted by the majority are therefore not applicable to the übermensch, whose overall superiority makes him “not liable” for anything he does. As somewhat of a relevant side note, Nietzsche and Leopold both had Neptune in the 3rd, a possible reflection of idealistic but fundamentally delusional thinking patterns.
Nietzsche’s philosophical influence over these boys might be seen in the fact that his Neptune falls in the 9th house of the composite chart, in conjunction, interestingly, with composite Saturn in Aquarius. Nietzsche’s Mercury in Libra conjuncts Loeb’s Mars, so it’s possible that Nietzsche’s manner of expressing his ideas acted on Loeb’s desire to act on the ways in which Nietzsche’s words inspired him.
It is not unexpected for a 3rd house composite Sun to appear in a relationship that begins either early in life or in an educational environment. The two originally met at an elite prep school. Their relationship blossomed into the dark flower it became when they reunited later on as postgraduates at the University of Chicago.
It was while attending the University of Chicago that they discovered a mutual interest in crime. Over time, their illegal acts escalated in severity; dissatisfied with the lack of public attention to their minor misdeeds, they decided that only a sensational crime such as murder would be sufficiently sensational to “confirm their self-proclaimed status of “supermen.”
On May 21, 1924, the pair enticed Loeb’s second cousin Bobby to enter a car that either Leopold or Loeb was driving; it is still not known for certain which of them drove, and which committed the murder. The murder was even a 3rd house type of activity, in that Loeb was related to the boy, who was younger, a child, essentially (young people, particularly boys, are symbolized by Mercury). The murder took place in the car, on a short journey from home, but the body was dumped some miles away.
First, let’s ask how two teenagers come up with the idea that they are somehow above the law and can murder someone at will, with no fear of consequences. Let’s also look to see if their natal 3/9 axes support or contradict this propensity.
Leopold and Loeb were both considered intellectually precocious, Loeb skipping a few grades, while Leopold’s intellect alienated him from others and he found it difficult to make friends. Loeb became a petty criminal early in life, stealing and lying with ease. When the two met, Leopold was impressed with Loeb’s social skills, and the two became friends and then lovers, Loeb enticing Leopold with the promise of sexual favors.
Loeb in particular is known to have developed a fantasy inner-world belief in himself as a “master” criminal. This fits with his eccentric to the point of genius 11th house Sun/Pluto conjunction in fanciful (and sometimes dangerously so, when they disavow all responsibility) Gemini, combined with egoistic, but bold, brave and daring Leo rising. Loeb was, characteristically for Leo rising, quite handsome, and used his appearance to his advantage, as one would expect with a manipulative Sun/Pluto conjunction.
Sun conjunct Pluto (in any sign) and Leo are almost at one in ability and desire to dominate others, one way or another. Once Loeb’s ego was engaged in getting the attention it craved, it was realistic that an intellectually advanced young man of his era would develop an awareness of and attachment to Nietzsche’s “superman” concept.
Loeb and Leopold had certain (negative) characteristics in common, one of which was a belief in their own superiority. While there is no doubt that they were both intellectually superior, they were also born into wealthy families, and so used their social status to bolster the Nietzschean assertion that the elite had every right to rewrite social rules in their own favor.
But these two were also obsessed (there’s that Plutonian word again) with committing the ‘perfect’ crime. They shared a sense of sadistic thrill over planning and carrying out the murder. Loeb’s second cousin was chosen, according to Leopold, as an “intellectual exercise,” no more significant than if an entomologist had killed an insect on a pin.
Leopold’s chart fits the mold of dark-energy Scorpio Sun taking its issues out on others (you see Sun in the 7th in charts of psychologists and politicians, but all Sun in the 7th house people have in common an interest in other people, often relying on others to define them or give them a feeling of self-worth).
Taurus on the Ascendent makes it entirely possible that Leopold could not be reasoned with and would not change his mind about his behaviors. The double fixed sign influence over the native creates a core personality of determination to enact a powerful will.
Significantly, retrograde Neptune in Cancer falls in Leopold’s 3rd house, indicating the likelihood that the native will become enamored with prophets of false gods (my words, not Nietzsche’s). Neptune in the 3rd can give the native an almost mystical approach to language, or make it possible for the individual to commune with ‘all that is’ so easily he appears to be a mystic (or can be an actual mystic, under very precise circumstances).
For the writer, Neptune in the 3rd can indicate that language, words, and comprehension of virtually any subject, flows as though from the divine. It can be difficult for the native to pin down how he knows about a subject; there is the sense with this placement that the information is just “there.” For certain natives, this combination can bring a kind of divine intellect that relies on its ‘third eye’ for information from the cosmos, if you will. Neptune in the 3rd can easily translate the ‘music of the spheres,’ or become a poet.
In Leopold’s case, however (and this is a much more common expression of this placement of Neptune, particularly in retrograde) the soul is undeveloped, even immature, and when it reaches into the vast cosmic storehouse of knowledge, does not attain actual wisdom, but instead is shown a reflection, as though in a dark mirror, of what his soul actually contains. In Leopold’s case, the mirror is provided by the opposition to Venus in Capricorn, indicating that personal values are materialistic rather than inspired or divine.
The opposition of Venus and Neptune also inspires the native to misunderstandings of what is real or important in relationships. The native seeks a divine source in the other, rather than looking for it in himself. Venus opposite Neptune is too easily led, too easily a lost soul; in Cancer and Capricorn, the lost soul seeks the sense of family, of someone to trust as you trust a mother or father, under the best of circumstances. Further, Venus is conjunct Uranus, both in the 8th, while the 9th house contains Chiron (the teacher and the perpetually wounded).
Because the two boys were born one year apart, there are some overlaps of the outer planets in their charts, such that Loeb’s Neptune in Cancer conjuncts Leopold’s. Another similarity, seen in the synastry, are the Pluto conjunctions and the close Uranus conjunctions.
However, it is in the connections between the personal planets where we see the specifics of how each were affected emotionally and practically. Loeb’s Moon at 4˚ Libra conjuncts Leopold’s 29˚ Virgo Mars, a difficult combination due to the soft nature of the Moon up against what it ultimately perceives as the all-too-direct and potentially bullying force of Mars. However, that Mars will motivate the Moon to do things the Moon lacks the courage for.
Astrologically, it looks like each pushed the other. Leopold’s Pluto on Loeb’s Sun/Pluto meant that the manipulativeness and coerciveness of Pluto was most likely a two-way street. Loeb pushed a sexual relationship, his Sun/Pluto conjunction would have forced desire for conquest; in other ways, Leopold might very well have been the initiator of certain actions and decisions, with Loeb’s Moon following along. Leopold’s natal Moon/Jupiter conjunction in Aries falls in Loeb’s empty 9th house, indicating that Leopold brought his philosophy, beliefs and morals (or lack of same) to Loeb.
However, Loeb has a Cardinal T-square involving Neptune opposition Uranus, with the focal point of Moon in Libra at 4˚. Cardinal T-squares are particularly poignant, because if someone needs a coherent life direction with rules and standards to achieve, it is Cardinal signs.
Leopold’s Mars conjunct Loeb’s Moon would have motivated Loeb, therefore, providing a focus of sorts to that T-square. I have to wonder what their relationship might have accomplished if Leopold’s Moon/Jupiter had fallen at the degrees that would have finished off Loeb’s T-square; filling in someone else’s empty leg of a T-square can mean the other person almost literally “completes” you. It can bring a real sense of relief for the T-square person, who has trouble behaving coherently; the squares in a T-square combined with the opposition create a lot of discordant energy.
It is of particular import that Loeb’s 3/9 axis is empty. When you find an empty house or axis in the natal chart, especially when it pertains to the composite chart, look to the cusps of each house to see where the sign and its ruler are otherwise posited. In Loeb’s case, the sign on the cusp of the 3rd is Libra, its ruler Venus; on the 9th is Aries, its ruler Mars. Then you look at how Venus and Mars are aspected, and see if there are any planets in Aries and/or Libra posited in adjacent houses.
Loeb’s Venus and Mars are in close opposition; Venus is conjunct the Midheaven at 7˚ Taurus, while retrograde Mars falls at 8˚ Scorpio, conjunct the nadir, or Imum Coeli of the chart. Loeb’s Venus/Mars opposition falls in Leopold’s 6/12 axis, putting Venus in the 12th, Mars in the 6th. It hardly needs emphasis that the Taurus/Scorpio axis is capable of materialism, hedonism from time to time, and emotional/psychosexual excess.
Loeb brings the sensuality and intensity of both his Sun/Pluto conjunction and Mars in Scorpio to this relationship with Leopold, but as a Scorpio, Leopold would most likely have found this attractive and fascinating. You know most Scorpios: the darker the better. Sun in Scorpio in the 7th would have been fascinated by psychology anyway, so if Loeb was dark and complicated (T-squares add to psychological complexity, and Sun/Pluto conjunctions, even in lighthearted Gemini are never simple, easy-going people; they’re more like Scorpios than not) Leopold was a good foil for all that excess emotional energy and manipulativeness.
It is known that Loeb became increasingly obsessed with Leopold, and one can well imagine the desire of a Sun/Pluto conjunction native seeking to control and dominate his partner through a darkly seductive combination of sex and death.
In synastry, person A’s Venus falling in person B’s 12th house has certain likely meanings; some can be more germane than others.
There is the sense or perception of ‘love’ at first sight because the planet person believes they “see” and “know” the 12th house person (which they do and can, but that doesn’t mean the 12th house person wishes to be seen or known). The 12th house person is often put off or subtly irked by the planet person. This effect, in my experience, never goes away and feels like a psychic thorn in one’s foot.
There’s the possibility of a clandestine love or attraction that might very well lead to marriage or public acknowledgement, such as when people leave their spouses for the person they’re having an affair with.
Then there’s the possibility of a private, or secret love, one that defies convention, as in the case of Leopold and Loeb’s relationship.
There might also be unrequited love in that the Venus person does not get their needs met, because the 12th is the house of the ‘secret’ enemy, one working against your interests, who rejects almost any planet placed there through synastry (not all at once and not immediately, making the ultimate rejection all the worse).
And then, of course, you can have both at once: a love relationship with someone working against your interests, usually not consciously. Of interest here is that it was Loeb, whose Venus fell in Leopold’s 12th house, who betrayed Leopold by confessing to the murder, initially blaming Leopold, claiming that it was Leopold who actually killed Bobby, Leopold who had had the idea to murder Bobby in the first place.
As we’ve noted, Loeb’s Moon is in Libra (in the 2nd house), but he has nothing in Aries, the sign that would complete his T-square. Leopold therefore brings him Aries energy, even though the degrees of Leopold’s planets do not closely conjunct that T-square; Loeb therefore needs Leopold’s energy in a way that Leopold does not need Loeb, since Leopold does have planets in both the 3rd and 9th, which makes him, at the very least, intellectually self-sufficient.
Leopold and Loeb’s Composite Chart
This composite is extraordinary in its ability to tell the 3/9 story of this complicated, doomed relationship.
What is the purpose of this relationship, and what energy does it use to express its purpose? Cancer rising combined with a Virgo Sun symbolizes the potential for a self-protective approach to the world, combined with some amount of pragmatic reality. There are, of course, many possible ways for this combination to express itself, but Cancer and Virgo together creates a relatively gentle energy, which is not the reality these two lived.
That these two became known for the brutal murder of a young boy must show up in their composite somewhere, one would think. We know that they were each influenced by what is, fundamentally, a twisted misunderstanding of Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy. Essentially, Leopold and Loeb’s self-delusion and grandiosity allowed them to think of themselves as ‘supermen’.
We see evidence of potential for this self-delusion in the Moon/Neptune conjunction at the Ascendent. With Moon-ruled Cancer on the Ascendent, the power of this conjunction is magnified. Plus, this conjunction is opposite Uranus at the Descendent, so at some point, this relationship was bound to ‘blow up’ around the subject of other people, particularly those who could be considered an ‘open enemy.’ The two might even be said to imagine an enemy into reality.
Under all circumstances, this self-deluded but ‘romantic’ conjunction in opposition to Uranus was going to present problems around the way these two young men perceived and treated others, and the way others perceived and treated them. Uranus at the Descendent brings a sense of constant upheaval around relating, to one another, and to others.
The couple is often not fully committed to each other, even if they are married or have a formal commitment. There is a sense that the relationship could come apart at any moment, or that it will inevitably lead to a ‘crash’ or enforced separation.
At the same time, it’s also not uncommon to see Uranus on the Descendent of a relationship that is inherently non-traditional. The relationship might in fact be solid, but be made up of two people who simply do not fulfill what most people have been taught to think is normal.
I have seen Uranus on the Descendent in the charts of long distance relationships, open marriages, polyamory partners, same-sex relationships, informal arrangements (friends with benefits), lovers where each person is married to someone else, and people who are divorcing or just cannot get along with each other no matter how hard they try. Uranus on the Descendent also indicates that the two have a potentially disruptive, troubled, or, at the very least, unusual relationship with others in general.
Let’s turn to the Sun conjunction with North Node in the 3rd. The primary purpose of this relationship is to learn how to express and communicate. The relationship exists to communicate, refine and perfect (Virgo) what each other knows, as well as skills they can bring to a project. There is a bonding at the mental and language-based level.
With the composite Sun In Virgo, the language must be precise, and there are details to attend to. The subject of learning and teaching is itself a core concern here. Sun with the Node puts a huge emphasis or exclamation mark next to the fact that the two are together to communicate with each other, to teach, and to learn from each other. Planets with the South node brings emphasis to the nature of those planets.
The nodal axis, when tied up with planets that aspect (in this case, conjunct) the South and North nodes, is made all the more powerful and important to the life path of the natives. I’ve started to see a ‘fatality’ or inevitability to the outcome of lives with planets aspecting both nodes, particularly conjunctions to both the nodes, that then are part of planetary oppositions (in this case, Mercury/Venus to the Sun).
Third house composite Suns tend to make for an intimate intellectualized relationship in the first place; if the two are as mentally compatible as Leopold and Loeb proved to be, and they find enough to stimulate them mentally, they are content to remain inside their own mental bubble.
However, with North Node conjunct the Sun, the potential for this relationship to create a larger message the entire world hears is very real. The life energy is aligned with the life purpose in a way that can create a profound message or story. Sun/North Node conjunctions can create huge, larger-than-life personae. The ego is enormous, as befits the Sun, but in Virgo, ego revolves around intellect, knowledge, and superior skill.
The relationship’s path takes them towards Sun-related issues like defining the self and expressing self, although I would argue that these two were too young to know themselves adequately. With the various pieces of the chart set up to create self-delusion and wishful thinking, of course they were deluded enough to think they were in control of their ego-impulses (a not-uncommon delusion for teenagers, who lack self-awareness only because they haven’t lived long enough to understand how little they truly know about much of anything).
The real problem for this particular relationship is not the nature of Sun conjunct North Node; that combination is usually quite positive, if self-involved, although in a composite chart, it can also indicate that the two people vie for attention and compete with each other. The real problem occurs at the South Node, which has two primary functions.
One is to bind us to the past in a variety of ways through habit, repetition without advancement of knowledge or ability, and comfort-zone type emotional responses (“Better the Devil you know,” instead of moving into the North Node and doing something new but scary). The other is to strengthen us when we do try to move into the North Node; or sabotage us when we attempt to reach for North Node skills we’re in the process of developing.
This composite has ruler of the North Node, Mercury, in Pisces, conjunct the South Node and Venus in Pisces. The ruler of the South Node, Neptune, is at the Ascendent, as we’ve already looked at, conjunct Moon, the ruler of the chart. The rulers of the nodal axis are in trine aspect from the 9th to the 1st (both are ‘fire’ ruled houses by virtue of ‘natural’ signs Aries and Sagittarius).
Leopold and Loeb were caught because they made some serious mistakes in judgement, but also because their attention to detail (Virgo) was poor. This is part of why I think the nodal axis tells us so much, because their relationship existed at least partially to force them to think more analytically (Virgo North Node)—even if they thought they were very intellectual and therefore smarter than everyone, they were in fact tripped up by a lack of attention to detail.
Where did this lack of attention to detail (which the North Node in Virgo implies they should or will develop) come from? The problem with the Virgo/Pisces axis seems to come down to the difference between the two signs. Virgo sees the water droplets and analyzes the angle the sun shines to reflect the different colors of the rainbow, while Pisces believes he is the rainbow, that we are all rainbows.
In the case of Mercury/Venus in Pisces conjunct the South Node, the skills Leopold and Loeb brought to the world through their relationship were much less precise than they needed to be to avoid being caught. For one thing, Mercury in Pisces’ imaginative thinking was augmented by that deluded Moon/Neptune in Cancer at the Ascendent.
In the 9th house, Venus in Pisces values communion with what it determines to be ‘divine,’ and it will exalt the words of someone who appears to support their own emotionally-based beliefs (these can easily include their personal biases). The 9th house Venus conjunct South Node means they basically ‘fell in love’ with Nietzsche’s philosophy, irrationally exalting the philosopher’s works without truly understanding it. Essentially, they swallowed it whole, without deconstructing it or analyzing it critically (as Virgo would have done).
Finally: Eris, and transits
As the Greek goddess of war and strife, Eris was “insatiable” in her desire for bloodshed, rejoicing over the havoc of the battlefield. I think this dwarf planet belongs in this analysis of the composite chart, because the brutality of the killing and disposal of the body is noticeable. The boy was killed, most likely by Loeb, with chisel-blows to the head, and by strangling. Moon was transiting within 2 degrees of Loeb’s Uranus (one planet of his unstable T-square) the night of the murder. The identity of the body was obscured with hydrochloric acid, which is just gruesome.
The wanton taste for brutality is hinted at in each of the natal charts. Since they were born within a year of each other and Eris moves slowly, Leopold and Loeb shared Eris in Pisces, so the composite Eris is also in Pisces, square composite Pluto in the 12th. Transiting Uranus was within 3 degrees of conjunction with composite 10th house Eris on the day they committed the murder (and was also conjunct by transit each young man’s natal Eris).
It’s usually transiting Moon or Mars that triggers events, but in this case, transiting Mars doesn’t seem to be setting anything in particular off in the composite chart, although Mars is within a degree of conjunction to Leopold’s Saturn in Aquarius in the 10th. His actions might have been borne of a fundamental resistance to authority.
Nonetheless, I think that it makes sense that it was the Moon, ruler of the Ascendent of the composite chart, that pushed the events of the 21st of May, 1924. Transiting Moon at critical 29˚ Sagittarius was within 2 degrees of composite Uranus at 0˚ Capricorn. In addition, and not unimportantly, transiting Venus and Pluto were conjunct at 10˚ Cancer, conjunct composite Neptune/Moon; it’s entirely possible the obsessive finality of transiting Pluto pushed these boys, already filled with Plutonian urges of endings and control, into believing that their plan made sense and would work.
Theirs is largely an irrational chart; if you look for straightforward indications of violence and sadism in this chart, what you find instead is upheaval (Pluto in the 12th opposition Uranus in the 6th at the Descendent) and Mars in Libra in the 5th as part of a grand Air trine. There’s too much irrational water vying for room in an otherwise strongly Air (and some Earth) chart.
The overall sense you get from this chart is not that these two were inherently violent, but that they were following a philosophical template (the 9th house speaking to the 3rd) to form a rationale for an idea that included violence.
Yes, individually, they have charts that support the potential for violence (Sun/Pluto in Loeb’s chart conjunct Pluto in Leopold’s, plus the Moon/Mars conjunction in synastry), but everything else for them is about creating a mental construct (composite 3rd house Sun, Mercury on the South Node) that seems to have been used at least partially because forming a detailed plan of some sort and carrying it out is part of North Node in Virgo.
Plus, their egos were on the line, and for each of them individually but especially when they were together, expressing the Sun in Virgo in the 3rd was a matter of expressing their intellectual ego. They needed to pull off this plan because it would have been a vindication of their beliefs, but more importantly, of their ‘smarts.’ In a planned murder, part of the thrill comes from control, and the sense that you’re smarter than everyone else, and will get away with it.
Unfortunately, these two did not plan well, lied badly, and most of all, did not contain their emotions. Ultimately, though, their own words ended up defeating them.
It was actually Leopold who made the most serious mistakes. One mistake he made was to drop his specially-made pair of glasses when they disposed of the boy’s body. Since only three customers ordered this style with its special hinge, investigators easily traced them back to Leopold. The next mistake they made was to lie to the detectives about where they were that night.
They claimed they drove around town with two young women that night, using Leopold’s car. When the detectives investigated, they learned that the car in question was being serviced by Leopold’s family’s chauffeur. Mistake #3 occurred when Leopold, who apparently could not control himself, made known his opinions about the murder to anyone who would listen, including telling one detective, “If I were to murder anybody, it would be just such a cocky little son of a bitch as Bobby Franks” (Wikipedia article).
One of the last pieces of ‘why’ Leopold and Loeb failed and were caught comes from composite Saturn in Aquarius, also placed in the 9th, but not in conjunction with the Nodal axis. Saturn in the 9th places a strong moral problem in front of the native(s); it will require that the two live up to social mores and morality in such a way that if they veer off-course, they will get caught.
There’s usually a judge, real or metaphorical, looking over one’s shoulder, observing all the missteps. At the very least, the native(s) will deal with the law at some point if they overstep social boundaries. Saturn in Aquarius tends to prefer to follow the rules, particularly when posited in the 9th, although this duo’s Saturn sesquisquare (135˚) Neptune/Moon at the Ascendent says that there’s some serious strain between following the rules and expressing their fantasies.
I’m not saying I wish they had gotten off, but if they had had a more developed Virgo North Node, I suspect we would not have heard of them, when in fact they are infamous, and have inspired books, movies and plays. They have gone down in history for a few reasons, one of which was that they were able to attract lawyer Clarence Darrow to defend them.
Darrow contextualized what went wrong for Leopold and Loeb, explaining that their childhoods, were immersed in the blood, gore and death of WWI. He even implicated their education, asking “Is any blame attached because somebody took Nietzsche’s philosophy seriously and fashioned his life upon it?… It is hardly fair to hang a 19-year-old boy for the philosophy that was taught him at the university.”
Naturally, Darrow avoided stating the obvious, which was that many, many other undergrads were taught the beliefs of the same exact philosopher, and they didn’t end up using Nietzsche’s ideas to justify the callous and brutal murder of a teenage boy.
However, Darrow’s Mercury/Mars in Taurus conjuncts the boys’ composite Jupiter in the 11th. The power of his words obviously benefited them, since Darrow managed to persuade the judge that these two did not deserve the death sentence. His Moon in Aquarius at 17˚ fell within 7˚ of their Saturn, although not in their composite 9th house, his Neptune within a few degrees of their composite Eris.
I think he had real sympathy for their plight, and blamed society and all its many mistakes, from educating them badly to perpetuating war and bloodshed, to defend these boys from the severity of the law. Darrow’s North Node in Aries, interestingly, completes Loeb’s fragile T-square, clearly acting as a stabilizer of Loeb’s violent Mars.
They were given life sentences instead, fulfilling their composite 12th house Pluto (incarceration, but also the potential to die in prison). Although they were separated for a time, they ended up serving in the same prison, and were able to maintain their relationship for some time, although Loeb was killed by an angry prisoner. Leopold eventually earned parole. While in prison, he taught fellow prisoners, and helped establish an educational program at Joliet prison in Illinois.