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Desmond Tutu: Peace-making Archbishop

Published: 28th January 2008


Desmond Tutu is world-famous for his support for non-violent resolution of conflict and post-conflict reconciliation. His religious beliefs are linked to direct actions in support of human rights. He won the Nobel Peace prize in 1984, for his commitment to a peaceful removal of the apartheid system in South Africa.

After the end of apartheid Desmond was appointed chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, which was set up to investigate human rights abuses during the apartheid era.

Since the turn of the millennium he has continued his peace-making work in the form of The Desmond Tutu Peace Trust and The Desmond Tutu Peace Centre. The express purposes of these organisations are to
"foster vision, understanding and the building of bridges", "support and promote the the creation of a culture of peace throughout the world", and the "attainment of peace for and among all."

Continuing his theme of reconciliation and brokering peaceful relations, Desmond has been described as 'unflinching' in his religious convictions yet simultaneously he is someone who places great store on religious inclusiveness and dialogue between different faiths.

Desmond's most recent work as part of The Elders group of international public figures takes his aspirations to a new level. Of this group's purpose he has said:

"Despite all of the ghastliness that is around, human beings are made for goodness. The ones that are held in high regard are not the ones that are militarily powerful, nor even economically prosperous. They have a commitment to try and make the world a better place. We - The Elders - will endeavour to support those people and do our best for humanity."

Birth chart

Desmond's time of birth is unknown, so his chart is shown here without house cusps, and the Moon's position must be regarded as approximate; its been calculated for midday. We can be certain, however, that it is placed in Leo, and is conjunct Jupiter.

Desmond Tutu's birth chart

The Moon conjunct Jupiter in Leo symbolises his religious authority and instincts. The less healthy side of this is a feeling of smugness and patronisation. Importantly, Jupiter is trine Uranus, and next we will see that this links to the key structure of Desmond's chart.

The main feature of this chart is the Grand Cross involving the Sun-Venus conjunction in Libra, directly opposite Uranus, and at right angles to the Saturn-Pluto opposition. This configuration is central to the chart, and to Desmond's psyche and life.

Grand Cross

A Grand Cross always describes the need the bring harmony to parts that seem to be at cross purposes and thus are either potentially or actually in conflict with each other. This aspect formation can be a source of incredible inner tension and struggle.

The will is activated, however, and that can be a person's saving grace: they are challenged to get to grips with the issues, to face them head-on, and to sort them out, lest they be constantly beset by in-fighting, at least within the psyche but also in their relationship to the world, and in the environment surrounding them.

We can see already that Desmond Tutu has pursued a constructive use of his chart in this regard. He has not let conflict drag him down, whether that conflict is intrapersonal, interpersonal, or environmental. He has, rather, taken his internal chart structure and externalised it by being at the heart of divisiveness, choosing to bring polar opposites together, exactly as his birth chart symbolises.

Planets & Signs of the Cross

The planets and Zodiac Signs involved in the Grand Cross add detail. Let's start with the obvious: Sun conjunct Venus in Libra indicates someone dealing with issues of peace and war, strategy and relationships, fairness and the balanced scales of justice and reconciliation. The roles of post-apartheid mediator and interfaith dialogue-promoter immediately spring to mind.

Directly opposite is Uranus in Aries, symbolising the theme of outcasts, outsiders, those who are different and 'alien'. Uranus can also be present where there are issues of divorce - literally or figuratively - and fragmentation, and this is reinforced by virtue of its position on the Sun/Venus midpoint (the halfway point between two planets). With Uranus there can also be ideas of utopias and superiority - human perfection and the perfect society. Human rights are represented here too. In this Sun-Venus-Uranus midpoint structure and the opposition being across the Libra-Aries axis we have a clear symbol of apartheid. Uranus's trine to the Moon-Jupiter conjunction shows the connection with religion, and the desire to be a 'wise uncle' benevolent figure.

The Saturn-Pluto opposition often correlates with the darker side of human nature, the capacity for annihiliation, but it also reflects the capacity to tear down walls that obstruct, and release crystallised resentments that have been festering away, toxically and noxiously. This opposition also conjures the image of the powerful elder. The involvement of the Capricorn-Cancer axis shows home and land issues, matters of belonging and a person's place in the world.


As well as the midpoint already mentioned (Uranus on Sun/Venus), there are some others worth including here. All of these apply irrespective of Desmond's time of birth.

Sun on the Mercury/Venus midpoint establishes as central the desire to connect, bring together, and unite. All three planets are located in Libra, so taken together this is a strong theme.

The first degree of Aries is sometimes called the Vernal point, and is important to take into account because it can show which parts of a chart - and thereby of a person's psyche - are coming into contact with the world at large. In Desmond Tutu's chart, Pluto is placed on the Mars/Vernal point midpoint, showing the human capacity for violence is an issue. Lining up with the Vernal point are the midpoints of Venus/Neptune and Mars/Jupiter. The latter reinforces the message about the capacity to make war, to destroy, but also to act morally, to be an ethical leader, while the former represents the desire for cessation of hostility and the establishment of unity.

Neptune's placement on the Venus/Pluto midpoint is particularly important because Venus is square Pluto and so Neptune forms semi-square aspects to them both (a semi-square is half a square). This symmetrical multiple-aspect pattern thus links the three planets, Venus-Neptune-Pluto, in a tight and specific arrangement, and in fact it brings Neptune into the Grand Cross in a powerful way - it forms an axis of symmetry through the Cross. Neptune is a planet that symbolises vision, hope, and peaceful transcendence of life's adversity and suffering. It is also a planet of religion, particularly Christianity, through the associations of the Fish.


It is clear how Desmond Tutu has used these chart potentials, showing how the symbolism can translate into predilections, aspirations, choices and even beliefs and speech. There are many deeper issues a life such as Desmond's can help us explore astrologically, however for now this brief interpretation will have to suffice and hopefully prompt your own further thoughts and chart investigations.

Applying astrology to political lifeGordon Brown, David Cameron, Nick Clegg, EU, USA, France, Australia, Uranus in Pisces & Neptune in Aquarius, & more

Applying astrology to business life Euro Currency, NHS, BBC,
USA economy, Ofcom, Concorde,
W Edwards Deming, European Central Bank, stock markets, & more

Applying astrology to people's lives Health, emotional intelligence, Zodiac elements, understanding change, Russell Brand, Angelina Jolie, Desmond Tutu, & more

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