By Amanda Painter
Today would be the 109th birthday of Anais Nin, diarist and author of novels, essays and erotica beloved by bohemians and others everywhere. Chances are, even if you have never read an entire volume of her work, you have encountered quotations taken from them, poetic musings on love, passion, writing, art or sex. Or perhaps you’re familiar with her friendship, creative partnership and intimate relationship to author Henry Miller and his wife June. You might guess she’s a Pisces, even if you didn’t know today was her birthday. In fact, her natal Sun is conjunct today’s rather stunning New Moon.
Nin was born Feb. 21, 1903 in Paris at 8:16 pm. Her data is rated AA by Astrodatabank, meaning that it’s based on a verified birth record.
Her natal chart describes perfectly what she herself seemed to describe in her diaries: that she was born to keep recreating her self, her sexuality, and her creative expression. Not only that, but this continual re-creation of her inner imaginative, creative, sexual life was going to play out on and influence the world stage.
While still a child she experienced the first of her many relocations: first to Barcelona and then to New York with her mother and two brothers after her father left them. It is in that time that she first began to chronicle her life in letters to her father, and to write in a journal. It’s a practice she kept throughout her life, and perhaps the writing she is best known for. Writing seems to have been the thing giving her life some structure as it flowed and careened and burst open, as she married and took lovers and married again, moving between and across continents.
We can see the symbol of her writing life in the conjunction of Saturn and Mercury in Aquarius in her 4th house (which, because it is on the cusp in the next house, can also be read as 5th house, and this blends the themes of the two houses perfectly in her work): the structured practice of writing is where Nin makes her truest home, where she can encounter her contradictory thoughts and emotions most fully. It’s how her voice comes to be known by the general public.
Another factor in Nin’s chart also speaks to her public impact: three prominent placements in the early cardinal degrees known as the Aries Point. (The theme of the personal being political, carried by the first degree of Aries, extends to Cancer, Libra and Capricorn.) In Nin’s case, this impact came both in the form of her friendships with many leading literary figures, including Gore Vidal, Antonin Artaud and Miller, as well as her influence on feminist writers of the 1960s, who embraced her sexual freedom.
Nin’s ascendant in early Libra makes a T-square with her Moon in the first degree of Capricorn on one side, and it makes another square to a conjunction of Pallas Athene and Neptune on her midheaven in early Cancer.
We tend to equate the Aries Point with activism and world-changing events. Nin, however, was not herself an activist — for feminism or anything else, really. Instead, her writing – with its frank eroticism, chronicling her many male lovers – served as inspiration and example for many women looking for some equal footing and liberation from mid-to-late-century gender roles.
Rather, it would seem that Nin’s Libra ascendant served as a conduit for her feminine energy to express itself through her relationships. That, in turn, placed her in a position of worldly influence via her writing. The ruler of her ascendant, Venus, sits in the midst of one of the most telling sections of her chart: her Pisces 6th house. There, in a 7-degree span, are Nessus (a centaur planet about family patterns and psychological conflict), Vesta, Venus and Eris. Last month in the Daily Astrology feature, I touched on the Venus-Eris conjunction in particular, and its sextile to Chiron in Capricorn, noting these words of Nin’s:
My concept of love clashed with my desire to create. Everyone’s life and love were more important than my own.
Creation I considered a danger to my loves, my human relationships. In creation I would reveal what I was, in opposition to the roles I played to be whatever anyone needed.
She speaks of conflict in love, in the roles she played with others, in her desire and drive to create. Pisces is a tremendously creative sign, Venus is about love and Vesta has to do with tending the inner creative/sexual flame — though Vesta also represents personal sacrifice for the greater good. But Nessus and Eris flanking that stellium speak of conflict surrounding those ideals. Nin herself noted her need to constantly create herself, but yet that process is not without pain:
Every time something is taken away from me, every time I lose someone or something, every time I must separate from something or someone, my reaction is creative. Huck observed that when I had lost my Father, I became my Father; when Henry fails me, I become the writer; when Rank fails me, I become an analyst. Everything must be replaced and re-created. Everything must come out of me and be me, and in me. I create my self-sufficiency, self reliance, self-fecundation. But because I am a woman I don’t want to be without needs. And I continue to have great needs. Nothing replaces life or love.
Several aspects of Nin’s chart can be seen in that quote; she also shows the beautiful chameleon quality of Pisces. Her Venus-Eris conjunction grants her tremendous sexual independence, but it also speaks to her divided sense of self. Put that conjunction in Pisces, the glyph of which is two fish facing opposite directions yet bound together, and it further speaks to her sense of being pulled in two equally impassioned directions. With her Sun-Jupiter conjunction also in Pisces, that sense gets expanded and broadcast out to the world vividly throughout her writing. It’s like her inner splits — in self-concept, in loving, in being a woman, in being creative — were her devotion and her art. In true mutable-sign form, they were malleable by her as much as they molded her in turn, and Vesta’s presence there ensures an almost sacred commitment to them. She writes in Fire:
To be myself is this, to be dual. And you can’t be dual without tragedy. I live on a hundred planes at once. Created a subtle, strange world with Henry [Miller], then with Huck [Otto Rank]. Enriching both, capable of both loves and of creating and nourishing both. Desiring unity but incapable of it. Playing a million roles.
These inner splits, Nin’s Eris-like “hundred planes at once,” may be, in part, one reason why her Pallas-Neptune conjunction has so much power — in addition to its placement at the top of the chart. Conjunct her MC, it almost says she’s a career liar in her living, despite her naked candor in her writing. Pallas-Neptune could be thought of as a ‘strategy of lies’ — or the gift of a fiction writer.
Nin didn’t so much try to reconcile her splits and conflicts as simply embody them. It got to the point that, in 1955, she married her second husband while still married to her first. Although she eventually had the second marriage annulled in 1966 for tax reasons, for years she lived a double life, one any secret agent would envy – which she called her “bicoastal trapeze.” According to Deidre Bair:
[Anaïs] would set up these elaborate façades in Los Angeles and in New York, but it became so complicated that she had to create something she called the lie box. She had this absolutely enormous purse and in the purse she had two sets of checkbooks. One said Anaïs Guiler for New York and another said Anaïs Pole for Los Angeles. She had prescription bottles from California doctors and New York doctors with the two different names. And she had a collection of file cards. And she said, ‘I tell so many lies I have to write them down and keep them in the lie box so I can keep them straight’.
Nin herself puts it this way, in Incest:
Lies: To explain to Henry why I could not spend this week with him. Inventions. Color. Drama. To explain to Allendy why I still go out one evening a week. Lies to Fred to attenuate effect of Henry’s furious cruelties because Fred steals a kiss now and then. ‘I love you like a brother’, which is not true. Fred’s sensitivity is like a barometer, but it has the depth of a feather.
Lies to conceal from the world my struggles against bad health. As I am often too tired to last through a day, I invent activities while I run home to take a sunbath. Lies about the source of income I give Henry out of extreme sacrifices, because a job is more attractive than the pinching I have to do. And I couldn’t keep a job because I haven’t the strength. Lies to Hugo to preserve his security. Lies to Emilia. Lies to Joaquin to calm his jealousy. The lies of night nurses, doctors, and Utopians.
The only person I do not lie to is my journal. Yet out of affection even for my journal I sometimes lie by omissions. There are still so many omissions!
Whatever Nin omitted (she tells so much, it is hard to imagine what she could have possibly had left to hold back), it is again clear that her writing was her place of greatest integrity. In fact, the integrity of Mercury conjunct Saturn in her 5th house in Aquarius is a perfect picture of how she only tells the truth in her journals.
Finally – and only because it would be too easy to write for days about her chart and her writing and her life and where Chiron happened to be at various turning points – there is Anais Nin’s Uranus, conjunct the Galactic Center in Sagittarius. It’s opposite her Pluto in Gemini, with both forming a mutable T-square with her Venus-Eris conjunction.
I think this configuration, in particular Uranus conjunct the GC, gave her life much of its ‘continual surprise’ factor — the moves (Paris, Barcelona, NYC, Paris again, NYC again, LA); the many lovers, including Henry Miller, two of her analysts and her own father when they reunited, among others; writing erotica; living on a house boat; her polygamy; and so on. Yet always, through all of that, she is clearly, palpably in touch with a sense of the soul and spirit of living, loving and erotic energy. Even with all those lovers, sex is never mechanistic for her, but rather a continual, sensual, spiritual marvel of living poetry – and her writing was written life, energy on a page. I don’t get the sense that she ever tried to contain herself, but rather just tried to embody each moment and sensation as completely as she could. It brought her great conflict; and she embodied that, too.
This could not have been written without the excellent research and additional insights by Monica Martin in Spain. Monica put together a timeline of selected events in Anais Nin’s life with some astrological transits noted, as well as a collection of illustrative quotations.