Stephen Crane, the author best known for his novel The Red Badge of Courage, became internationally famous in American literature with six novels, volumes of poetry, short stories, and articles. He did not survive passed the first Saturn return, but accomplished much in his brief time. During his writing years, many manuscripts were rejected due to his candid depictions and dialogue themed around some of life’s most harsh situations.
Based on the birth data: November 1, 1871, 5:30 a.m. Newark, New Jersey with an AA rating from astrodatabank.com, Crane’s Libra-Ascendant ruler is debilitated Venus in Virgo in the 12th House, a Dushthana House of suffering and loss. This immediately hints of a shorter life, but there’s more going on. Venus gets an aspect by functioning benefic/yogakaraka Saturn, who is conjunct two other natural malefics- Mars and Ketu and, we’ll see later, Venus gains some support with Mercury. The Sun, which represents vitality and life, is ruled by this mixed Venus and is itself debilitated in Libra. These mixed conditions and placement of the Ascendant ruler gives clues to the influences behind his drive into danger and controversies throughout his life.
Stephen Crane was known to be as comfortable with his famous colleagues, such as H.G. Wells and Joseph Conrad, as he was with the poor, downtrodden, and criminal. The intense interest in people from all ranks of life comes through his three planets in social and philanthropic Sagittarius, Jupiter in the 10th House of the public, and Moon/Rahu in Gemini, another social sign motivated by connections. Venus is another important factor as ruler of the 8th House of scandal and criminal behavior, and while the 8th House is unaspected, Venus positioned in the 12th House contributes to his social interest in foreigners or people living in a ‘foreign’ lifestyle or status. This Venus also confirms his, generally speaking, ill-natured attitude towards women, where he (at least in The Critical Biography by John Berryman) supposedly felt easily annoyed by older women, including (and likely because of) his highly-principled religious mother. Yet, he was also infamous for ‘heroic acts’ of rescuing or defending prostitutes– at least once in a well-known incident that nearly destroyed his reputation and almost cost him his career.
Later in his personal life, he and an unhappily married woman (Cora Stewart) formed a common law marriage. Though they never officially married, they lived together, much of the time overseas. This is reflected by debilitated Venus in the 12th House, showing an awkwardness or kind of disregard towards ‘normal’ relationships with women and having interest in foreign lands, or making a life with a female far from home. His Venus becomes exalted in the 5th House of the Navamsha and is in a Parivartana Yoga with Jupiter, redeeming some of the debility, along with Parivartana Yoga with Mercury in the natal chart. These two factors brought relationships to him despite the poor placement of Venus in the rashi.
Stephen was the youngest of fourteen children. Five siblings died before he was born. A brother and sister died when he was a child, his father died when Stephen was only eight, and his mother when he was twenty. Some documents conflict, stating that he lost both parents when he was a child. Regardless, death, dying, hardship, and suffering surrounded him from early on and certainly impacted his choices. The 2nd House of childhood is Mars-ruled Scorpio. The hardship and emotional depths of Scorpio confirm the difficult early years and the motivation of his philosophical drive and passion for portraying neighbors in his writing, We see this through the Mars-ruled 2nd House (communication). His Mars is positioned in the 3rd House (local community) with Ketu and Saturn (ruler of his 5th House of creativity). Ketu’s influence here likely encouraged an egoic, self-centered attitude and some disregard towards the opinions of others. Stephen’s Moon in Gemini gave him the ability to put his feelings and observations into writing; the desire to do so being led by Rahu who, in conjunction with the Moon, amplified his need to speak his mind and share his personal observances (9th House) to shed an intelligent and psychologically-focused light on life and humanity. To educate people or simply entertain? Probably both. With Mars at the helm of the 2nd House of speech, he was unafraid to speak up and speak about, driven by the Scorpio urge to reveal and lash out, to shock or expose as much as to bring darkness to light.
The paired force of Moon/Rahu in Gemini brought social interest, verbal honesty (as he saw it), and his urge to express. Moon/Rahu and Venus occupy Mercury-ruled signs (Gemini and Virgo, respectively). Mercury is combust but gains strength by its 1st House position (dig bala), and provides a ‘release’ or ‘relief valve’, so to speak, for his debilitated Venus from the Parivartana Yoga occuring with Venus and Mercury. 8th House ruler Venus in the 12th House (and exalted in the Navamsha 5th House) no doubt brought scandals and controversy, which then pushed his literary boundaries. With Mercury conjunct/combust the Sun, he intentionally and quite confidently wrote as no one else has done before and despite all of the rejections, he continued to write in his own style. Accompanying the rough realities he often depicted, Crane’s stories were filled with raw dialogue that portrayed his characters in a sharp, authentic manner, masterfully using dialogue (Mercury) as a means to not only see but feel (Moon/Rahu in Gemini) what each character was experiencing. A great awareness of feeling coming from Jupiter in Cancer gets credit also by its 2nd House placement from the Moon. And yet, his dialogue caused quite the distraction and may have been a reason why his manuscripts were often rejected. The language can be difficult to read for most people (Mercury combust?). Here is a short sentence from the dialogue in Crane’s Maggie: A Girl of the Streets:
“Youse allus fightin’, Jimmie, an’ yeh knows it puts mudder out when yehs come home half dead, an’ its like we’ll all get a poundin’.”
Top agents and writers of the day considered his style trash, but he pushed himself, truly believing in his talent. Crane exposes quality, culture, and the condition of his characters through dialogue in a way many other authors were unable. He wrote conversations as he heard them. At one time in his career, Crane was a news correspondent, but his published works were literary fiction. The Red Badge of Courage, for instance, about a young soldier’s challenges in war, was written strictly from his imagination and the discussions he had with local war veterans. He had no combat experience himself.
Stephen’s Aquarius 5th House of creativity (imagination) was ruled by Saturn, the bold, unwavering, truth-seeker who reveals the pain of life, the shortcomings and quarks of humanity. Saturn is on Stephen’s nodal axis, a karmic and volatile balance (or imbalance) between his egoic desires, kin and community (3rd House) and his sense of righteousness and justice (9th House)—themes we see over and over in his personal life and his writings.
Leo, as natural sign of the 5th House, is Stephen’s 11th House, which mirrors his imaginative writing towards hometown neighborhood stories or war stories where the main characters were ‘the boy (or girl) next door’. But Leo also sees the bigger picture and through his writing, he opened the door to the commonality of humanity’s personal struggles. Pisces, another highly creative sign that stirs the imagination and rules his 6th House, encouraged Stephen to create tales and poetry from the burden and harshness of everyday life. Jupiter, ruler of Pisces, aspects his 2nd and 6th Houses.
Stephen’s strongest planet is this exalted Jupiter and we see that Jupiter, along with several other basic yogas occurring in his chart, gave him the rise in life that America and the rest of the world has come to know. These yogas explain how a short life full of controversy and suffering (albeit with unusual talent) resulted in high recognition and fame. Firstly, the beautiful Hansa Yoga, the Mahapurush Yoga formed by exalted Jupiter in the 10th House from the Ascendant, must have offered great opportunities, if not optimism, hope, and some luck, giving the power to turn an ordinary life into something quite extraordinary on some level. This well-positioned Jupiter also creates a lovely Amala Yoga (natural benefic in the 10th House from the Ascendant), giving Stephen prosperity, fame, and lasting reputation. In some respects, the effects of this yoga surely gave him charisma and charm, which likely helped him wiggle out of a few tight spots in his social and personal interactions. The aspect of Mars to Jupiter gave him courage to explore and a passion for travel, which he did plenty of, particularly as a war correspondent.
Stephen also had a nodal Raj Yoga formed by the Moon and Rahu (Moon as ruler of the 10th House in conjunction with Rahu in the 9th House). In addition, he has four Dharma Karma Adipati Yogas formed by combinations of the Moon, Mars, and Saturn, illustrating how the natural malefics, in cooperation with or agitation of the Moon fueled the fires of his psyche for events to unfold as he acted upon the aspirations and inclinations.
Stephen was born under Mars dasha/Ketu bhukti, a period which lasted until he was two and a half years old, at which time he entered his 18-year long Rahu dasha, and this we see sets his literary ball in motion. Not surprising, his international rise to fame as an author occurred in the following dasha, that of Jupiter, who, as previously mentioned, is exalted in the 10th House of fame and status and is vargottama in the 10th House of the Chaturtamsha of ‘fortunes’. Jupiter is the dispositor of the Saturn-Mars-Ketu conjunction in the Sagittarius 3rd House. The triple conjunction of natural malefics caused enough sway, however, to interrupt his formal education. Stephen Crane had little to no writing education. He dropped out of a semi-military school and left behind a one-time dream of becoming a mining engineer. He followed instead the impulse of Mercury and dove into the field of journalism and writing.
Readers of The Red Badge of Courage may have heard that the author actually never fought a war, but they may not have known that he intentionally put himself in harm’s way, going into war zones as a war correspondent after the success of The Red Badge of Courage. In one instance in 1898, he covered the Spanish-American war when he was running Jupiter dasha/Mercury bhukti. In this example of his reckless, adventurous spirit, we recognize Jupiter as ruler of his Mars in Sagittarius in particular—giving him the courage to chase his questions and philosophies. Perhaps he had to get a true taste of war to ask himself: What’s war really like? Did I write well of it, realistically, in The Red Badge of Courage?
On June 5, 1900, Stephen Crane passed away due to complications of tuberculosis, an airborne respiratory infectious disease of the lungs. He died five months shy of his twenty-ninth birthday in a sanitarium in Germany where his wife Cora brought him after he collapsed from hemorrhaging of the lungs. Death, sanitarium, foreign country, Venus (wife) – these are all 12th House subjects for Stephen. He was running Jupiter dasha/Venus bhukti at the time. The triple-threat of malefics through the Saturn aspect to his somewhat disadvantaged Venus were too much force. The three malefics were positioned 12th from his 4th House of the lungs, while his natal Saturn and transiting retrograde Saturn in Sagittarius at the time double aspected his ‘dasha triggered’ debilitated Venus in the 12th House ruled by Mercury, the planetary indicator for the lungs. Mercury in the 4th House of the Tajika D5 chart of health is aspected by Mars, who is strong in its own sign, and conjunct the Sun—two natural, fiery malefics. Jupiter exalted in Cancer disposits to the Moon who, along the nodal axis, was also aspected by Saturn-Mars-Ketu. Moon is the natural ruler of the 4th House (lungs). He would not feel the graces of Jupiter this time, as we see that Jupiter could not protect (did not aspect) the Ascendant or the Sun (two indicators of his overall well-being and vitality).
His short life flowed from Mars, through Rahu, to Jupiter dasha based on the Vimshottari timeline. His Ascendant, Moon, and Rahu are in Mars-ruled nakshatras (Chitra and Mrigishira). Chitra, the ‘star of opportunity’, brought out Crane’s soulful desire to see the world around him in an intelligent and deep way, to be inspired and act upon the inspiration. This placement gave him a strong ego and confidence in his creative ability. Couple this with Mrigishira, the ‘star of searching’, and we see the foundations for a journalist, novelist, and poet.
During the last eight or so years of his life, Stephen ran Jupiter dasha, where the Jupiter yogas fructified. Jupiter in Pushya nakshatra, ‘the star of nourishing’, is ruled by yogakaraka Saturn who lifted his success to international heights when he ran Jupiter dasha/Saturn bhukti. Good fortune and powerful speech come under Pushya, who is like the soldier marching with inspired motivation upon his own dharmic path. But Pushya also relates to the lungs and health issues connected to them, including tuberculosis.
A personal note: Many years ago when I prepared for the ACVA certification exam, I reviewed hundreds of charts of the famous and infamous. When I came across Stephen Crane’s chart, I learned that he had lived during his childhood in the town of Port Jervis, New York, the same town where I was born, and as an adult, when Stephen required a respite from his crowded, noisy New York City life, he traveled north to stay at his brother’s house in the quaint “Sullivan County town of Hartwood” located less than twenty miles from where I grew up. Fast-forward to all these years later when I decided to write about Stephen, unexpectedly a local friend added me to his Facebook group page during the Covid-19 pandemic inviting me to watch his concerts from inside the Drew Methodist Church of Port Jervis (which I personally had never heard of before). And there, in my hands, under my nose, in the pages of the biography book about Crane, the Drew Methodist Church was mentioned as the very same church where Stephen Crane’s father had been pastor back in 1878. This ‘coincidence’ seemed to be the planets aligned for me to draw a bit of attention to him again and perhaps inspire the next generation of readers or encourage up and coming writers to take literary risks, find their unique writing voices, and have confidence in what they do. (Maybe the message was for me too? I’ve wanted to get back to creative writing.)
Stephen’s Vimshottari dasha timeline shows that he would have been running Jupiter dasha/Venus bhukti when I wrote this article in 2020. Jupiter/Venus is the same dasha/bhukti at the time of his passing and we were just days away from the June 20, 2020 solar eclipse that had Moon/Rahu conjunct the Sun in Gemini in Mrigishira nakshatra. Talk about synchrony!
Renate Maria Bell is a certified Vedic Astrologer, Jyotish Visharada, and approved teacher with the Council of Vedic Astrology. She can be reached at renatembell@renatembell
All images of Stephen Crane and historic placard courtesy wikipedia; image of The Red Badge of Courage courtesy amazon; Photo of Stephen Crane’s chart by Renate M Bell courtesy Shri Jyoti Star software of which Renate is a licensed user.