Jean Dominique Bauby was the former director in chief of the French fashion magazine Elle. On December 8th, 1995 at the age of 43, Bauby suffered a massive stroke. When he woke up twenty days later, he found himself not only entirely paralysed but also speechless. The only part of his body he had still control of was his eyelid. His condition is known as the locked-in syndrome, wherein the mental faculties remain intact but most of the body is paralyzed.
Bauby slowly started to realize that most people, especially medical staff had no idea about his cognitive ability. He desperately needed to find a way to express himself. His logopaedics Claude Mendebil showed him the only possible way to communicate with his surroundings and to describe his situation, feelings and needs. She read for him a special alphabet, letter by letter, in the order of the most used letters. Blinking with his eye lid Bauby would stop her at particular letter, which she would write down while she was again repeating the letters to him. In this way he dictated his book one letter at a time composing and editing it entirely in his head.
In The Diving Bell and the Butterfly he described his own life as a person perfectly able to understand what was happening to and around him, but unable to communicate in any way. He especially focused on his feelings when nurses or doctors treated him as he was not present, like a child or even a dead. The description of himself as a little butterfly closed in a diving belt, unable to fly away, is moving. The book had an enormous success in the late 90ies, a film followed and Bauby made the locked in syndrome well known outside the medical world, drawing attention to patients with different expressive abilities.
In this paper, I do not want to focus on the year, in which Jean Dominique Bauby had the stroke which changed his life but the following, that in which he started to dictate the book. In a certain sense, I want to look at the gift of that event, because I do believe, that nothing happens without a reason and that what we consider so often as a “divine punishment” often reveals to be the highway to specific purposes and achievements in life. While this was probably not his intention, Bauby, nevertheless, changed the life of many people who were in the same condition as he was and gave them a voice and a dignity.
Bauby died on March 9th, 1997 three days after his book was released
Here is Bauby’s chart (AA data):
Short chart assessment
Bauby has a night chart and Aries is rising, opposed (by sign) by the malefic out of sect, Saturn. The AC ruler is strong in his nocturnal domicile in the succedant 8th house. Mars is retrograde and moving towards an opposition with the Sun. The Sun rules the 5th house, which describes fashion, lifestyle and glamour. These were the things he was making money with (Sun in the 2nd house). The opposition of Mars in the 8th shows his need to innovate, to change, to be quicker than other journals, to dictate the fashion rules of a particular year. Fashion has a short life, renewal is the main requisition. Also, as the editor of one of the main fashion magazines, he moved a lot of other people’s money through his editorial choices of what was “in” and what was “out”. A perfect description of the 8th house signification.
Furthermore, Bauby has the natural ruler of haut couture (Venus) conjunct the Moon and his AC. She rules his 2nd house, thus money was important and fashion the way to make it.
In his job he needed excellent communication skills, which he had with Mercury, Lord of the 3rd house of writing and communication in his 1st house. However, Mercury exactly opposes Saturn in the 7th house, a planetary pattern which usually describes somebody who feels as he could not freely express himself, but learns how to manage with authority and patience. Saturn describes dysfunctions and Mercury expressive skills. The hard aspect requires a viable solution to overcome the hindrance.
His life was very fortunate until the stroke, no wonder with two benefics close to the AC. However, we need to give Jupiter a closer look. He is the lesser benefic in this chart, and rules both the 9th and the 12th house. The 12th house describes closed places, hospitals or depressions. The locked in syndrome fits into this house, so much more as Jupiter is in the 1st house which describes the physical body.
Jupiter is conjunct the fixed star Mirach. According to Ebertin,  the star is
of the nature of Venus and Neptune and gives cheerfulness, happiness, love of company and many interests (…) These people have stimulating effects upon others, make friends easily and are helped on in life by others.
Mirach certainly makes Bauby much a people’s person with a sociable and stimulating character, but on the other side it “throws light” on his locked in syndrome and makes that of interest for others.
We also find the antiscion of Saturn in the 12th house, linking the dysfunction of Saturn in the 6th house of illness to something which is closed in.
Mars, Bauby’s 1st house ruler is conjunct Zubenelgenubi, a star of the nature
of Mars and Saturn and thus of noticeable unhelpful influence, especially (as in Bauby’s case) in a night chart.
Interestingly, William Lilly, in one of his horary examples, describes a planet in this position as to be in the chelae.
The chelae refer to the claws of the ancient sign Scorpius, when Libra still did not exist as separate constellation. That what we know today as the plates of the Scales or Libra, were in ancient times the claws, as shown by the image of the Mercator globe on the right. A planet in this place was considered to be in “danger” as he could be damaged by the Scorpio’s scissors.
In other words, Mars position at 13° Scorpio puts the life of Bauby (Mars L1) in a very dangerous place. Mars does describe action and movement. That was the toll he payed when Mars became activated, as we will see later.
According to Lilly, the right eye of a men is given to the Sun, the left to the Moon.
- The Moon is conjunct the benefic in sect Venus.
- Both Moon and Venus are in the strongest angle of the chart and separating from exalted Saturn, the malefic out of sect.
- There is no aspect with Mars.
His left eye is “protected”.
- The Sun is opposed by Mars (applying aspect)
- The Sun is conjunct the antiscion of the South Node.
- The conjunction with Jupiter is separative and the sign border already crossed.
The right eye is less fortunate than the left.
Bauby dictated his book with his left pauper, the only part of his body he was still able to move.
I will now show, how the The diving bell and the butterfly shows up in his chart. While the reason Bauby wrote this book, was undoubted horrifying, the book itself represents a major positive event in his life. For its analysis, I will use:
- The Annual profection
- The Solar return chart
- Primary Directions
- The Circumambulation through the bounds
The annual profection
We do not know exactly the day he started to dictate his book, but Bauby mentions it in his chapter Season of Renewal the period he started to work on it:
Summer is nearly over (…) September means the end of vacations (…) Claude is reading out the pages we have patiently extracted from every void afternoon for the last two months (…). Do they add up to a book?
According to this sentence, Bauby must have initiated his book around July 1996. At that time, Bauby was 44 years old and his 9th house was activated. Jupiter became the Lord of the year (see chart on the left). He is angular and in his triplicity and thus particulary strong.
He thus promises good things but is nevertheless somewhat hindered by being out of sect and opposed (by sign) to Saturn. Thus the good things he represents will see some kind of obstacle or dysfunction (Saturn).
Jupiter describes wisdom, freedom, important people.
The 9th house is about journeys, knowledge, religion and publishing.
Putting the pieces of the puzzle together, we see that in this year, his physical body (Jupiter in 1st house) experienced the locked in syndrome (Jupiter ruler 12th house) and he published a book about his experience (9th house activated by annual profection).
Now let’s cast an eye upon the Solar Revolution of that year.
Scorpio is rising, thus his natal 8th house is activated. He was already ill, which is reflected by Mars is in the 6th house and the planet is bonified by both benefics. He squares Jupiter (LOY) in the 3rd house. From the annual profection we already know that the theme of this year will be about a certain journey, publication and his body. Now Jupiter gives more information:
He is in the house which represents books, but he is in his fall, so this book will be difficult to be done, however, Mars receives him in his exaltation. While he had the much-needed perseverance, it cost him nevertheless incredible strength and effort. Jupiter squares the nodal axes, so there is something fatal or predestined in this book.
Mars is also receiving a sextile from Venus, who rules the 12th house and the 7th, connecting the locked in syndrome (H12) with a vaster public (H7).
Circumambulation through the bounds
Using Delphic Oracle, we see that at the moment of his Solar Return in April 1996, the directed AC was in Gemini, Bauby’s 3rd house, and in the (Egyptian) bounds of Mars.
But shortly after his SR, the directed AC switched into the bound of Saturn. These bounds have an extension from 24°-30° Gemini.
Saturn is the malefic out of sect and thus the most difficult planet in Bauby’s chart.
He generally describes dysfunctions, loss, but also deep concentration, determination and dedication.
He is in the (natal) 7th house of public opinion (the others) and rules the 10th house of success. He also rules the 11th house of friends and assistants. Without his assistant, who repeated him over and over again the sequence of letters at which he blinked at with his left lid, he would not have been able to accomplish his book.
Saturn is exalted in Bauby’s chart and angular, thus extremely dignified. However, he is retrograde so his strength is not available in a way Bauby might have expected and, worse, he is the malefic out of sect, asking for a high price to pay.
If we consider Saturn in the Solar Revolution, we find him in the 6th house of illness, together with Mars. Both malefics in this house clearly describe the hard time Bauby was having, especially if we consider that these planets are in Aries, Bauby’s natal 1st house. On the other hand, Saturn disposes over Jupiter in the 3rd house. Bauby writes a book in a very Saturnian way, putting effort and determination while facing his own dysfunction.
The year Bauby woke up every morning at 4 a.m. in order to edit his book mentally, he had Jupiter (wisdom) and Saturn (concentration and obstacles) both activated. Mars was the AC ruler in the Solar Revolution. He contributed with his will to fight back.
The book was published on March 6th, 1997, just 3 days before Bauby died. It really looks as he accomplished his mission.
- A stelllium in the 12th house describes the Locked in Syndrome
- Transiting Saturn (bound ruler , BR), ruler of the 10th house (career), is conjunct his natal Mercury (book).
- Mercury ruler of his 3rd is conjunct the Sun, ruler of the 5th house which describes creativity.
- Jupiter (LOY) and Saturn (BR) are in sextile aspect.
We also can consider the transits over his Solar Revolution:
The Stellium of Venus, Mercury the Sun and the South Node is in his 5th house, while Mars, the ruler of his SR Ascendant is in the 12th. The ruler of the 10th (visibility, success) is in the 5th house (creative product).
At the end of his book, Bauby asks himself
Does the cosmos contain keys for opening up my diving bell? A subway line with no terminus? A currency strong enough to buy my freedom back?
I am sure the cosmos has given him the key.
This article has previously been published on the ISAR Journal.
I am available for natal chart readings and horaries. Please contact me here.
 The divining belt and the Butterfly, directed by Julian Schnabel, released in 2007
 Source: https://www.astro.com/astro-databank/Bauby,_Jean-Dominique
 Jupiter is the greater benefic in a day chart, while Venus is stronger in a night chart.
 Ebertin- Hoffmann, Fixed stars and their interpretation, Ebertin- Verlag 1971
 Ebertin- Hoffmann, Fixed Stars and their interpretation, p. 60
 William Lilly, Christian Astrology, p. 228
 See http://www.constellationsofwords.com/stars/ZubenElakrab.html
 William Lilly, Christian Astrology, p. 247
 Jean-Dominique Bauby, The diving bell and the butterfly, Vintage Books, 2008
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