The Real Carlos Castaneda

Inside His Birth Chart

CC head shot Carlos the man began as we all do, a child. So we can look at his birth chart as if it were that of a child just beginning life and see what the potentials are. Carlos Castaneda began life as Carlos César Salvador Arana at around nine in the morning on Christmas Day 1925 in Cajamarca, Peru and was an only child to his parents, César (32) and Susana (23).(1)

A Short Word About the Rectified Time/Chart

When we see rounded times like 9 AM, the experienced astrologer knows not to take it literally, but only as a starting place. The chart was subjected to a rectification/validation procedure to meet my very high Chart Validation Standards.

This interpretation is based on the birth chart Asc 17°18 Aquarius (ten after nine a.m.). The chart was rectified using the dates for three marriages, plus 12 other events, including death.

The Ascendant figure

CC first quadrant This ‘AC’ (Asc) is seen at the left end of the horizon line running through the middle of his chart. The Ascendant figure includes the zodiac sign on the Ascendant of the chart, which is Aquarius, as well as all planetary aspects to that point. The Asc is the most specific point in the birth horoscope indicating one’s self-identity and mode of self-expression. Challenging planetary aspects to it indicate challenges in one’s self-expression, health and relations to others.

Aquarius Rising

Aquarius rising is a generally social and broad-reaching sign. Its air element is mental as much as social and the principle of Uranus behind it gives it a more global, transcendent orientation than is generally seen in the other air signs, Gemini and Libra.

This kind of person is generally distinctive if not likable, but more detached from the more personal aspects of relationships. The perpetual tendency is for group involvement, whether through primarily intellectual means or direct relating.

Venus in Aquarius conjunct the Asc

The action of Venus is to soften, beautify, attract and charm. This would have developed within Carlos from a very young age, to be likable, affectionate and appreciative of the beauty in life and others and to accentuate his own desirable features. As you might be inclined to think, this is not as cut-and-dried a proposition for men as it could be for women, especially in a strongly Latin country like Peru. A Venus Asc for a man brings a greater than usual sense of vulnerability rather than bolstering machismo.

Venus’ Physical Influence

The body will tend to be soft and the face show a more rounded outline than usual. The skin will tend more to smoothness than usual for men. Laziness or at least laxness in physical fitness may become pronounced if the Aquarius type lives too much in that world of mind they find easier to negotiate. This conjunction of Venus with the Asc predisposes one to develop conditions of imbalanced blood sugar, diabetes, etc, IF the potential for indulgence goes too far. Venus is the primary significator for diabetes (Jupiter being secondary).(2)

Venus in Aquarius indicates the potential to have friends of all types without regard to cultural boundaries or backgrounds. This is one of the best factors for enabling one to feel immediate kinship with various people of all kinds. This makes it very unlikely that the person will stay within the circle of one’s own background. Humanity is the big family and the world is one’s home.

There is spontaneity here as well because Aquarius is an air sign and the air mode is communicative and relational. Uranus is its principle, the planet of the electric, of broadcast waves and invisible energy. Aquarius is the broadest reaching air sign in relating. There is the tendency to accept humanity generally and understand what motivates and pleases people, but have difficulty with the personal needs of individuals, their subjective idiosyncrasies and needs for limiting loyalties. Relationships may begin easily and fluidly, but drop off when the charm is gone or when the challenges and responsibilities kick in.

Saturn’s Strong Influence

Ambition, the desire to ‘be somebody’ is the ego’s focus when Saturn is strong in the chart. This isn’t necessarily about seeking fame, but wanting to be taken seriously, to get the kind of respect that titles or official positions often bring. There is also a tendency to worry about failure and to carry a sense of not measuring up.

Saturn’s Hidden Prominence

Saturn at its position square the Asc is already strong, but even more importantly it was parallel the Asc of this birth chart. This is not seen in the flat wheel chart, but in the declinations of his birth chart, the north/south positions of his planets. That parallel is an aspect just as strong and of the same nature as a conjunction. Saturn is the primary significator for secretive persons.(3)

Saturn and the Asc (self/identity) are fused. Young Carlos’ identity was fused early on with what he believed he could, would or had to become. The self is felt as something to be built up by accomplishment over time into a worldly identity. Guarding himself, even with secrecy was pretty predictable given this birth chart.

Saturn’s Physical Influence

Saturn limits and lengthens. Physically this means a diminished stature from what may’ve been seen in the median size of the parents. Occasionally thin lanky bodies show under Saturn’s influence, but with Venus conjunct the Asc, it most likely will result in limited height (compared with the parents). The forehead/hairline tends to be higher and the face longer and narrower than normal for a fixed sign like Aquarius.

Physical conditions like poor circulation can develop into arthritis and other chronic ailments from neglect of physical care.

Gratification & Inhibition

The fusing of Venus and Saturn does not remove the contradictory nature of the two energies which normally set up shop separately and do business away from each other in the chart. Venus is gratification, especially if it is easy. Saturn is denial or delay. Venus is human contact, but Saturn is control. Venus is love, beauty and the feminine. Saturn is business, austerity and the paternal way.

These would have played out internally before ever revealing themselves outwardly. I love her, but I must remain free to become somebody… I feel tender, but must not be hurt again… Control negotiates with affection. Power too easily wins over love through the illusion that controlled (conditional) “love” is better than love out of control. It is more acceptable to a respectable man than sentiment or feelings flowed out of their proper container.

In a healthier expression, this often just means delayed marriage while one meets some essential goals until one’s career efforts create a strong footing. Then, with that sense of personal order in place, one feels properly and materially equipped to meet the challenges of the expectations of a worthy mate with high standards.

Venus-Ascendant Challenged Condition

This is indicated by Venus-Asc square to Saturn, which is up at the Midheaven (MC). Planets there can often have the strongest influence of any in the birth chart. Saturn defines limits, challenges, lessons to be learned, strength to be developed and most often is brought home to us very personally through the father or early authority figures and teachers. The Saturn action is that of cutting away what is no longer needed, of turning tasks leaden, slow, heavy.

With Saturn in Scorpio at the Midheaven the primary actions of Saturn early in life will almost certainly be seen through the father as a holder of stern attitudes and unbending standards. This alludes to control issues by the father, even a coldness and self-involvement. Standards too easily do not relate to the needs of the child, but are from long-held attitudes of the parent, possibly from retention of resentments or frustrations.

So imagine that type of tendency from the father acting upon the affectionate nature of young Carlos. At the very least this factor suggests a parental relationship characterized by coldness and distance.

The Effect on Relating

In making a right angle to the relational axis (horizon, Asc/DC line) and Venus there is delay, obstruction, “issues” to deal with in getting comfortable in equal “I-thou” relationship. Saturn in the 10th house of career would have put career before relationships of a personal, intimate nature.

The challenge is (not even considering Venus’ role) to strive to find a substantive meeting ground in relating to others, not cowering from challenges, but instead finding a place of cooperative control for mutually beneficial outcomes. Seeming to fail in this will directly cut at the self-esteem. While there is the potential for the self-esteem to be built up strong and solid if such substantive things are accomplished, there is another side of the coin. That is a sense of failure diminishing self-esteem and falling into measures of control to keep others from getting close enough to see it.

Saturn this strong with both a square and a parallel aspect to the Asc indicates the potential to cut off affections, to terminate relations with those who no longer seem to serve a practical use towards the ambitious aims.

Venus at the Asc already carries a sense of vulnerability with its own typical compensation of making that extra effort to reach out, to complement and be liked so as to incur the self-protection gained from the affection of others. The self is protected not so much with aggression or overt power plays as from a thick layer of real affection from a number of associates.

However, with Venus also parallel Saturn, the love nature will tend to be guarded and does not like relinquishing control or lowering standards for anyone. It is too easy to just go cold and turn away. After all, there are things to be accomplished, goals to be realized and if there is success, there will always be a “better class” of lover. This represents the most superficial outlook, more typical for air sign types. Plenty of Saturnine-Venus people willingly accept the responsibilities inherent in relationships. Castaneda’s chart was biased towards this superficial expression of Saturn because of the air sign Aquarius on the Asc which prefers detachment and personal access to the group, the collective connection, over personal entanglement.

The Moon and the Feminine

The Moon in Taurus is down low in the chart squaring the Asc and Venus. Moon-Venus aspects like this one strongly increase the underlying need for warmth, tenderness and affectionate expression, as well as a general receptive nature to people. Taurus, being down-to-earth, reasonable and sensual, is considered an influence of steadiness upon the Moon’s subjective-internal-cyclical nature.

The Hidden Story of the Moon

This is seen in the aspect of Moon parallel asteroid Chiron. (Parallels occur when two or more planets are at about the same degree of declination north or south of the celestial equator.) This indicates the potential for a wounding/healing experience to come, particularly through the relationship with the mother and women in general. It also indicates the potential to develop the ability to assist others in healing. There is enough sensitivity indicated with these factors to expect he would become good at knowing what to say, to at least help others feel better at appropriate moments of suffering or disappointment. This is a subtle aspect emphasizing the development of compassion.

This is especially true since you can see in the circle chart that Chiron is quincunx (inconjunct, 150-degrees) Saturn. This further indicates “death” potential with a parent that would be part of this compassion developing process.

Creative Urges & Artistic Potential

Moon square Venus in this fashion could have helped Castaneda with tactile arts like sculpture. He attended Bellas Artes in Lima (National School of Fine Arts) and studied sculpture there.(4)

In addition, Moon is sextile (60°) Pluto, indicating an intensification of the sensual and creative nature which needs a healthy mental outlet on a consistent basis. There is no doubt of his creative potential, but which needs a palpable, physical focus as indicated in this aspect.

According to his ex-wife, Margaret Runyan, he engaged in creating sculptures for personal pleasure and as a commercial artist during the 1950s or 60s after he came to the U.S.(5)

I would have encouraged it as a lifelong, therapeutic pursuit.

Moon square Venus and Asc can also indicate someone willing to extend themselves quite well in establishing new friendships, going further than most would to draw someone in and offer gifts — at least to start. With air signs (Aquarius), however, the tendency is to say wonderful things, but not follow through. There is a tendency for engaging in flattery with this aspect, especially with an air sign involved for a man.

With any such Moon-Venus angular aspect a great love for the beauty and wonder of all things feminine and mother nature develops; or going even further from a place of balance, there is a slip into moodiness, indulgence, even a craving for attention and affection from others that leads to thoughtless grasping for it. As we develop there is most often a mixture of these until maturity filters out what is unproductive and inconsiderate of others. This nearly guarantees for a person living in a society rich in sweet and starchy foods and mass-produced food products that hypoglycemia and/or diabetes will develop if preventive dietary measures are not taken.

Moon, Mother, Need

The aspect of the Moon square the Asc (without considering Venus) has itself a tendency to emphasize the inner needs rather strongly, to emphasize one’s relationship with the primary female, mother. This alone is a factor of vulnerability, this great feeling of need and affection for all things motherly and feminine. This aspect by the Moon increases general sensitivity to one’s own feelings, as well as the feelings of others, especially women.

These three factors: Venus, Saturn, Moon create what some astrologers would consider a T-square. The Moon is a bit wide of the required opposition with Saturn, but I can accept that view since Venus and the Asc pretty much hit the mid-point between the Moon and Saturn and create transference of energy between Moon and Saturn more strongly earlier in the aspect than normal. This is a T-square that puts self-esteem into prominence and into jeopardy.

The Undersky/Midheaven: The Parental Axis

This vertical spine represents important psychological dynamics. The undersky (Imum Coeli, IC) is the ‘midnight’ or bottom point of the chart. It represents the early home, family life and private life and one parent. In Castaneda’s daytime chart the IC depicts his father, César. The midheaven (Medium Coeli, MC) is the ‘high noon’ or top point of the chart and depicts Castaneda’s mother, Susana.(6)

Early Death of His Mother

In 1950, when Pluto’s transit had it directly opposite the Asc of this birth chart (and square the IC/MC parental axis) his mother died. He was 24. This was far sooner than anyone really expects to lose their mother. One hopes to reach a kind of successful maturity or even old age themselves first. Carlos refused to attend the funeral, locked himself in his room and ate nothing for three days.(7)

This potential for early loss of the mother is seen in the condition of the Midheaven in Scorpio conjunct Saturn, which in turn is parallel the Asc. This is as a destiny factor out of his control and affected his attitude towards the world: he resolved to leave Peru and within two years he boarded a ship for California.(8)

The Hidden Core Planetary Aspect

Mercury in expansive Sagittarius and Mars in intensifying Scorpio are within five minutes arc of exact parallel (at 19 south declination). The parallel aspect has the fusing emphasis of a conjunction, but but here it draws from different zodiac sign modes of expression. Such a Mercury-Mars aspect lends one to being talkative, opinionated, endlessly curious, a quick learner, a writer/speaker/story teller.

This is the tightest aspect in his chart and with both planets positioned in the 10th house of career the aims would have been high. Frequent conversations or a writing habit would not have been enough. Goals and ambitions would have been attached to this urge — and should have been. This is the desire to be heard and for one’s ideas to have penetrating impact.


You may have noticed that I have avoided any ‘gotcha’ interpretation here. There will inevitably be the questions regarding the various contradictory birth/childhood stories Carlos gave to the public and intimates alike; the fraudulent anthropology beginning with some of the most gripping fiction I have ever read, The Teachings of Don Juan; the manipulation of others, especially women in Southern California, resulting in a kind of micro-cult of bigamy and passive-aggressive pretension to the authority of a respected guru.

I point to what any astrologer can see straightaway in the birth chart — the potential for deceptive, manipulative patterns in relating in order to continually promote self/career as seen in the aspect of Neptune in the 7th house of ‘others’ (relationships) squaring Mars and Saturn in the 10th house of ‘career’. Read my linked description of Neptune and you can see it describes very well how Carlos affected many others.

The position of Neptune at 24 Leo is square the IC/MC axis, that parental axis that shows something of the relationship between the parents and the relational foundation laid in his early life. This type of Neptune aspect brings into question the bonds to one or both parents and/or indicates high but ill-defined expectations placed upon him. Much of what was behind his actions an choices was the insecurity common to many people. Much of it was ego and pure ambition. A good portion of it was the application of an artist’s sensibilities to a search for ultimate truth. The truth blurs like an intriguing pastel watercolor landscape and the artist signs with fictitious name well chosen to dramatically bolster the ego. That is all.


2. The Rulership Book by Rex Bills, 37
3. Ibid., 129
4. The Don Juan Papers by Richard de Mille, p. 362
5. A Magical Journey with Carlos Castaneda by Margaret Runyan Castaneda, 41, 71
6. The Rulership Book by Rex Bills, 90: “mother, of one born during the daytime (10, Venus)”
7. The Don Juan Papers by Richard de Mille, 362
8. Ibid.,


About Kannon McAfee

Poet, herbalist/healer, professional astrologer. Kannon means Kwan Yin -- healer. So I approach my work and others with a healer's heart. I'm dedicated to advancing astrology as a soul-oriented science. My specialty is birth chart interpretation and rectification.
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