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Karen Carpenter: Being a Lunar Type in a Solar World

Donna Cunningham, one of the most insightful psychological astrologers of the late 20th Century, has left us with many wonderful, instructive texts. As I was traveling during Cancer season, I picked up The Moon in Your Life: Being a Lunar Type in a Solar World, and loved it as much as I did when I first read it in 1996. Donna Cunningham reminds us that while we live in a world that rewards energy, aggression, push, drive, ambition, success, and public acclaim – all good solar entities – we are also animal bodies with very lunar needs for rest, nurturing, natural rhythms, and emotional well-being. Too much solar in our lives causes us to override our lunar needs, leading to lives filled with depression, rage, addictive behaviors, and soul-destroying stress. On the other hand, too much retreat into our lunar beings can deprive us of the life force which fills us with purpose in this world. The key, she tells us, is balance.

While pursuing our goals in life, we must also learn to tune into the Moon in our charts, understanding what gives it comfort, helps us deal with stress, and what areas of life it most affects. Finding where Cancer is in our chart and what planets may be in the Moon’s sign also helps us to understand our lunar needs. We should also pay attention to what Donna Cunningham calls the “lunar thresholds” in our lives, a time when we are, in a sense, shedding an old shell or layer of protection and remaining vulnerable when growing a new identity or shell. Leaving home, becoming a parent, losing our parents or a spouse, or retiring from the work that gave us an identity are all times when our Moon needs to be tended. Women are also particularly vulnerable when they begin menstruating, give birth, or go through menopause.

Becoming dependent on drugs, alcohol, or other addictive behaviors is a way many of us learn to cope with an overly stressed Moon. Food, though, can become a very strong crutch for those who are feeling lost in their lives and emotions. Donna Cunningham devotes two chapters to the role food plays in our lunar struggles, identifying the painful discrepancy between the solar world’s celebration of thin bodies and stringent diets and the real-life experience of those who do not have naturally thin bodies and are thrown into compulsive overeating after the deprivations of the latest diet.

Of the charts Donna Cunningham examined for this book, one of the most touching was the chart of Karen Carpenter, a beautiful and amazingly talented singer who died tragically at the age of 32 from complications caused by an eating disorder. While Karen Carpenter was a stunning success in the solar world – we can see that Pisces Sun conjoined with her Midheaven – she was truly a “lunar type” who needed more than wealth and fame to be happy. Donna Cunningham points out that the Cancer Ascendant would intensify her emotional nature, and the Uranus conjunction could lead to rebellion against her role as a family member or even as someone idolized by the public. The ruler of Karen’s chart, the Moon, was in a tight conjunction with Pluto, suggesting she was in a battle to control or even suppress her lunar nature – with the second house suggesting an obsession with food, what sustained her. This conjunction was also in tight opposition to the highly mental Aquarian Mercury and Jupiter in Aquarius, creating a tension between her mental state and her emotions. Donna Cunningham suggests that this tension led to Karen’s struggle with anorexia. The inconjunct between the Leo Moon and Pisces Sun tells us that Karen had everything in the eyes of the world, except for the love she craved for herself as a unique and vulnerable human being.

Throughout the book, Donna Cunningham turns to what she calls “the Cancer wheel” to help us pinpoint and then find the remedy for our lunar problems. When we put the sign of Cancer on the first house of the wheel, she reminds us that we need to nurture the child within. When we reach for food (or any other compulsive behavior), does our child really need rest, affirmation, stimulation, or a release from anxiety? Leo on the second reminds us to love and value ourselves. Virgo on the third asks us to analyze our thoughts and emotional patterns to find what may work better for us. Libra on the fourth tells us to find balance with our past, releasing what no longer serves and making peace where we can. Scorpio on the fifth guides us to heal through isolation, creativity, and play. Sagittarius on the sixth asks us to expand our learning of what we need to be healthy, and to have faith we have the ability to improve our habits.

Capricorn on the seventh tells us to find trusted companions to help us on our healing journey. We cannot do it alone. Aquarius on the eighth reminds us that we are individuals on our own path, and yet we can connect through support groups with others sharing similar struggles. Pisces on the ninth house connects us with that spiritual power greater than ourselves which becomes our ally in the struggle to transform. Aries on the tenth house tells us that many of our addictive behaviors are ways of masking or burying our anger. Learning to speak up for ourselves and drawing that protective line in the sand helps us to release hidden resentments. Taurus on the eleventh house indicates the value of true friendship in our lives, those people with whom we share an equal give and take. And Gemini on the hidden twelfth house invites us to explore – through writing, conversation, therapy, or meditation – the subconscious forces at the root of our compulsions.


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