On February 4, 1974 Patty Hearst, granddaughter of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, was kidnapped by a small, cult-like group calling themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) which was led by an ex-con and consisted of a band of late-Hippie era eccentrics.
Like many cults, the beliefs and goals are strongly held but rarely logically consistent. While the term “symbionese” claimed to encompass many left-wing beliefs, one of the first (violent) acts of the group was to kill an African-American school superintendent, clearly in contrast to its supposed anti-racist mantra.
In another high-profile act, Patty Hearst was kidnapped also with unclear goals and undefined exit strategy. That presented no problem because during Hearst’s confinement, she merged with the group. In American Heiress, author Jeffrey Toobin details Hearst’s kidnapping to her parole from prison five years later.
During her time with the SLA, Hearst participated in a bank robbery, a hardware store shooting, escape from the law and a couple love affairs. On the news in those days (which I do remember) was an image of Hearst with rifle in hand and the question: Was she brainwashed or was she a willing participant?
Cults and culture
In the 1970s, cults and brainwashing were much in the news, especially after the Manson Family murders of 1969. Today we don’t hear these terms much. Have cults been eradicated?
Always interested in cults, it was many years before I realized “cult” was simply part of the word “culture.” Are you brainwashed by your culture? Is a “cult” simply a competing culture?
What is fascinating about Hearst’s story as laid out in Toobin’s book is how quickly she merged with the environment, how rapidly she adopted their beliefs, how easily she fell in love (although engaged) twice during this period and how abruptly she returned to her rich heiress lifestyle.
If kidnapped by a militant cult, we think we would not change so quickly, so radically. But in a sense, when we are born into a culture, don’t we do just that? Don’t we adopt its beliefs, or at least what it presents as the options for beliefs? Don’t we fall in love with someone in the environment, no matter where we’re born?
Was the 20-year old Hearst still a babe in the woods of a larger culture and simply adapting? Or was she particularly prone to merging her identity with others?
While we all adapt to our culture, Hearst’s horoscope does have quite a few planets in signs that are known for merging with others and taking on their identities: Libra and Pisces.
Hearst’s sun, Venus and Mercury are in Pisces a mutable water sign that desires emotional merging with others. It’s an emotional, empathetic sign often finding itself as savior or victim. Pisces does not have strong boundaries because it doesn’t want them.
Hearst’s moon and Neptune are in Libra, a cardinal air sign that is the sign of “the other” and motivated by partnership. Libra often finds its identity through others as it forms a reaction to those others.
Hearst’s Jupiter (in Gemini) and Mars (in Sagittarius) are also in mutable signs forming a square to the sun. Mars in Sagittarius would be passionate about causes. With the sun in Pisces and moon in Libra, it’s not a surprise that someone else provided the causes. The speed at which Hearst adopted those causes is what’s shocking.
With Uranus in Cancer squaring moon/Neptune, the unusual family into which she was born appears to have blocked her finding the ideal partner. As Toobin explores, maybe Hearst felt this longing toward radicalism (or some type of extreme behavior) but never found the partner to help her express these longings.
When she was kidnapped in 1974, transiting Pluto was conjunct her moon (in Libra) and transiting Uranus was conjunct her Neptune (in Libra) – Uranus being in square to natal Uranus (in Cancer). This was certainly a time of transformative (Pluto) and sudden (Uranus) partnerships (Libra). Hearst clearly did not choose this – she was taken against her will. That’s Pluto in action – you have no choice in the matter. Some feel like this when falling in love with the “wrong” person.
While adapting to the environment may have kept her safe, after she became an active member of the group, Hearst had plenty of opportunity for escape. When most of the group was killed in a standoff, Hearst and the remaining members of the group fled and hid for several months.
45 years later
Tomorrow is the 45th anniversary of Hearst’s kidnapping. In the current astrological configuration, transiting Pluto (in Capricorn) is now opposing Hearst’s natal Uranus (in Cancer).
Is it time for changes in the family dynamics? Possibly a Capricorn transfer of power and wealth?
Transiting Neptune has been in Pisces since 2011. Tomorrow it will be almost conjunct Hearst’s Mercury in Pisces. This transit squares natal Jupiter (in Gemini) and transiting Jupiter (in Sagittarius).
Will this Neptune transit with Jupiter aspects inspire Hearst to tell us more about her feelings and motivations during that time?