Goethe’s Illness at Age 18

Goethe’s Illness: Did This Crises Astrologically Link to His Later Fairy Tale.           Version 1


goethejohannvongoethenatalJohann Goethe was born Aug. 28, 1749 in Frankfurt, Germany.  As an adult he was a writer, philosopher, poet, government official, natural scientist and recognized intellect.  Plays, books, poetry, articles, ballads and letters testify to his range of interest and productivity.

Earlier in his life, while studying at a nearby university, Goethe became seriously ill.  This prolonged illness played a major role in his later life.  For reference, as it has been covered in other writings, Goethe’s natal chart is shown here.

Note Sun-MC, Sun-opp-Moon, and Saturn-Asc.  An additional pattern is Mercury’s t-square to Pluto-opposed-Part of Fortune.   These are patterns that are likely to activate two or more angles in a Return chart or Advanced chart, signifying an important event.

Goethe’s sudden illness.

In July of 1768, just prior to his nineteenth birthday, Goethe developed a hemorrhaging from his lungs.  At that time he was in Leipzig, studying at the University.  A fellow student heard his struggle to breath and called for help.  Goethe himself was unable to speak or summon help. Medicines to counteract this problem were not available and standard treatments had not been developed.  A local doctor was called and was able to help him in his immediate condition.


This text will not only explore the charts of Goethe relating to this sudden illness but will seek to compare any chart-factors shared between the Advanced chart for this illness’s onset and the chart for his conceptualization of the fairy tale twenty six years later.

This can be a tedious task for readers to follow.  Two approaches will be taken.  First, a standard commentary on each of the charts involved will be provided.  Second, a table noting common planet-groups between each of the charts.  This second approach simplifies the comparison process and highlights important considerations in our interpretations.

No particular date in July, 1768 is provided for Goethe’s initial suffering of this medial condition.  However, t/Moon-to-n/Sun Return charting provides a means of searching for and identifying likely dates for any given event or condition.  This speculative approach will be explained now.

  • Moon-to-Sun Return charting utilizes a dual cycle; a transiting Moon conjunct the natal Sun Return provides a personal new Moon cycle of approximately two weeks length and a transiting Moon opposite natal Sun Return, another two week cycle.
  • Both Moon-to-Sun and Moon-opposite-Sun Return charts were calculated for the period of late June through early August.  This provided a selection of charts which could be examined for indications suggesting a possible illness or difficulty.
  • The chart for July 17, 1768 seemed most appropriate.  This is a t/Moon-conjunct-n/Sun Return, timed at 10:40:05 AM on that date.  This chart is shown below.

Readers can follow these steps:

  1. Angles and planets at/near the angles have interpretive precedence.
  2. Transiting Sun is considered a primary factor.
  3. Transiting Part of Fortune (t/PoF) is considered a  primary factor.
  4. Transiting Moon, by definition, is in contact with the Sun in the Return chart. However, as we advance the chart for any of the following days, the transiting Moon becomes important as an event trigger and an event-timing indicator.
  5. ‘Doubled up’ planets (both the natal and transiting versions of the same planet) contacting one or two angles, or contacting one angle and a planet not at an angle, always emphasize that planet in the interpretation of the chart.

These numbers will be used in the following notes to associate the interpretive statement with one of the five steps above.

Standard interpretive narrative.

We can start our interpretation for the above July 17, 1768 chart with 1) t/Saturn-MC; feeling constrained in the pursuit of one’s goals.  Note that n/Saturn-n/Asc. is angular like t/Saturn-MC, and is conjoined by t/PoF; struggle with a personal effort, the harshness of life is challenged.  This latter pattern links the 2nd to the 10th house, indicating that his self-esteem is affected by his not being able to pursue his normal work.  We can summarize this as being depressed by his developing medical condition.

1) t/Saturn-MC opposite t/N.Node-t/Pluto-n/Mars-n/N.Node at the 4th angle indicates that his contacts with friends and associates is severely curtailed.  For young a man whose has left his family home and is starting a journey of learning and self-discovery, the idea of being bound to his bed was difficult to accept.  These themes will likely apply at the time of his illness becoming evident.  Saturn can also represent fear.

We can now move to planets in angular houses which are not close to the angles.  First of all, we have 2) the angular n/Mars at the 4th house cusp and t/Mars deep in the 7th house, giving us a general statement of being attacked in some manner.  Mars is symbolically associated with blood, an issue with his illness.  Since both versions of Mars are located in angular houses, they can be considered to be in a “square’ relationship (challenges, conflicts).

3) t/Sun conjoins n/Neptune in the 10th; the Sun’s vitality comes into contact with a dissolution process.  We immediately see that 4) the t/Moon-t/Neptune is conjoined with the n/Sun-nMC.  In essence, the transiting and natal versions of Neptune and Sun are ‘doubled-up.’  This is a lack-of-vitality issue that is highly likely.

5) t/Jupiter conjoins n/Chiron suggests that one goes to extraordinary lengths to make adjustments in how one deals with life.  We can note the broad linking 6) of t/Chiron to n/Jupiter in the 6th house of the chart, mirroring and emphasizing the first house placement.  We might treat this as a ‘weak’ doubling up of Chiron-Jupiter.

We need to keep in mind that this chart represents a theme or condition that will prevail for the following two weeks.  Any specific event or development often relates to a specific date within the cyclic period of the chart.

Before we explore Advanced charts and dates within this period it is prudent to compare this July 17th chart to the October 26, 1794 Advanced chart which marks Goethe’s inspiration to create his fairy tale, the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lilly.  We can see this conceptual effort as a “putting it all together” moment.  This chart, the ‘creative chart for 1794,’ is shown below.


The July 17th chart’s MC of 5 Cancer opposes the years-later Oct. 26, 1794 chart’s t/Mars-n/Mars!  The challenges of this earlier period will be drawn upon to express his goals and ideas of the latter event–the creation of his fairy tale to tell the story of his path to conscious awareness

Less obvious is the July 17th chart’s t/PoF-n/Saturn pattern (at 14d and 15d Scorpio) which is repeated in the 1794 chart by the reversed t/Saturn-n/PoF in that chart’s 7th house.  The personal challenges of his illness in 1768 is linked to his 1794 drive to give meaning and structure to the profound changes in his life — which he did through sharing those changes within his fairy tale.

It is now appropriate to examine dates within the two week period commencing with this Return chart of July 17, 1768.  We are not so interested in determining which day Goethe may have first encountered this severe illness, that in itself has little bearing on our exploration.  What we are interested in how the Return and Advanced chart may relate to the chart for his creation of his fairy tale.  Is this crises directly, astrologically linked to the fairy tale’s creation date?  Let us now examine one day in the two week cycle following the above Return chart.


Diurnally advancing the July 17, 1768 Return chart to July 21st brings the MC angle to 8:54 Cancer, within a degree of t/Saturn.  This is a marker pointing to a severe constraint upon Goethe’s goals and life status.  The t/PoF, representing ‘chance and change,’ conjoins n/Mars-IC and signals the start of an attack of some sort.  Since the before-observed pattern of t/Sun-n/Neptune and t/Neptune-n/Sun-n/MC is still in play on this date, this t/PoF-n/Mars on the vertical axis of the chart strongly links into the natal MC pattern and the mirror image for the Sun and Neptune.  Vitality is affected, weakened, attacked.  .  One can also wonder about the Oct. 26, 1794 chart’s t/Part of Fortune at the midpoint of t/Mars-t/Sun — compare this to the Advanced chart’s t/Part of Fortune-n/Mars.  The t/Mars-n/Mars midpoint opposes t/Mercury-n/Mercury which is associated with the lungs.

So, we have Neptune (infections), Mars (blood and attacks), Part of Fortune (chance and change), and Mercury (breathing, lungs) all involved in this Advanced chart for July 21, 1768.  It would appear that this is a likely date for the onset of Goethe’s  health issues.

In these advanced cyclic charts, transiting Moon, Sun and PoF are always looked at as being triggers of events and conditions.  Here, t/Moon opposes t/Mars and squares t/Venus-n/Neptune.  This points to being upset by conditions that have to be endured, emotional upset by a lack of balance within one’s life, feeling as if one has lost direction and control.  Further, t/PoF-IC-n/Mars signifies changes in how he relates to attacks (in terms of illness) and its impact on how he deals with his associates and life’s mission (N.Node).  In effect, we have a type of ‘doubled up’ Mars symbolism here.  Natally, Mars is in Capricorn in the 2nd house.  This signifies a very productive Mars-effort approach to life that shapes his attitudes and self-esteem.

It is instructive to notice t/Neptune in the 11th house.  While not angular relative to this July 21st chart, t/Neptune is transiting the natal Sun-MC position of Goethe.  We can relate this to the broad conjoining of t/Venus-to-n/Neptune in the 10th house, providing us with another ‘doubled-up’ situation.  Goethe has a natal trine pattern involving Moon-Neptune-Pluto, pointing to an affinity to having a high degree of sensitivity to any influence.  While this served him well as a poet and as a natural scientist, it served him poorly in not being able to resist the problem of hemorrhaging blood from his lungs.  With t/Venus near n/Neptune, we can see t/Venus as being associated with the circulatory system and its contamination (Neptune).

This date seems quite appropriate for the onset of Goethe’s health difficulties.

Using common planet-patterns to find links between charts.


Oct. 26, 1794 outlined his fairy tale. July 17, 1768 t/Moon-n/Sun

Return prior to illness

July 21, 1768 Advanced chart for start of illness
“A” n/Sat n/Asc t/Asc opp t/Sat n/PoF “B” n/Sat n/Asc t/PoF and t/Sat t/MC “C” t/Sat t/MC opp t/PoF t/Mars
“D” t/Mars n/Mars   “E” n/Mars IC and t/Mars 7th “F” t/PoF n/Mars IC
“G” t/Moon t/Mercury “H” “I”  t/Moon opp t/Mars square n/Mercury t/Mercury
“J” t/Sun t/Neptune “K” n/Sun t/Neptune n/Sun “L”  t/Sun n/Neptune

 This table is a convenient way of providing a focus, one focus, on commonalities between these events.  When we look at the common planet-patterns we need to see them in two ways; first, from the point of illness, and second, from the point of creative celebration as he both created the fairy tale and recognized his own achievement of conscious awareness.

ABC Grouping:  The B-C group emphasizes the development period of his illness.  A Saturn-complex at the angles with the Part of Fortune indicates great trials impacting every area of his personal and public-career life.  The A group is similar but with a significant difference: the natal and transiting Ascendant are conjoined (within a few degrees).  Whenever the natal angles are replicated by the Return or Advanced chart angles ‘we have a re-birth’ situation.  Life changes in a big way.  This is a highly dramatic moment in spite of the doubled-up Saturn and the Part of Fortune carrying forward the B-C theme.

DEF Grouping:  The ‘illness’ Return chart (E) has a doubled-up Mars at the IC and 7th houses, suggesting (in terms of an illness) a life threatening (IC angle of starts and ends) attack which involves other people (7th house) helping, or perhaps acting as infection agents.  The Advanced chart (F) highlights t/PoF-Mars-IC, which acts as a trigger to this life-threatening event.  The creative-consciousness chart (D) brings t/Mars and n/Mars together, the Mars energies are resolved and focused along a creative path.

GHI Grouping:  The Advanced chart (I) or the day he contracted his lung-bleeding condition continues the influence of Mars but also introduces t/Mercury-n/Mercury.  We would associate breathing, the lungs, the chest with this planet in these circumstances.  We also see the Moon playing a role of reaction and fluids playing a role in the illness, as this Moon squares the two Mercury’s.  The conjunctions so often define the time of an event.  Looking at the creative-consciousness Advanced chart (G) we see t/Moon-t/Mercury making peace, associating his memories (Moon) with his ‘that day’ thoughts.

JKL Grouping:  These planet pairs are all Sun and Neptune symbols.  For illness, Goethe’s vitality (Sun) is dissipated (Neptune).  For his creative-consciousness chart (J), his vision, joy, and energy are given a spiritual or greater-role-than-just-the-world focus and sensitivity.


 The linkages between the charts for Goethe’s illness and for the day he conceived his fairy tale are significant.  The former did not cause the latter.  They appear to be part of a larger cycle.  What is that cycle, what did it involve?

Goethe had recovered from the dire effects of his illness under the care of a local physician to the point where he could be transported back to his home in Frankfort.  This occurred six weeks later on September 3, 1768.  It must have been a trying experience for a sick person to ride in a carriage over dirt roads.  However, once home his mother arranged for medical help of a unique nature.  A woman, Susanna Katarina von Klettenberg took on the caring of Goethe.  She was a member of the Moravian Bohemian Brotherhood, a mystical group which functioned like some of the present day ‘mystery schools.’ She guided Goethe into an understanding of spiritual knowledge as he slowly recuperated over the next two years.

His illness and recuperation led to a great unfolding of his mind and sensitivity to the world.  We seem to not have any specific dates and events associated with this process of becoming more aware for which charts could be constructed.  In the years that followed him regaining his health he met Karl August, Duke of Sachse-Weimar for whom he would serve as a counselor.  In this role he took on many responsibilities.  Tiring of those burdens, he traveled to Italy and studied art and nature.  It was at this time that his activities as a nature scientist developed.

His return to Germany two years later was difficult for him.  His personality and outlook on life had changed.  His former friends and associates no longer understood him or were interested in his new ideas.  The Duke remarked, “Well I don’t altogether understand Goethe’s ideas, but on the other hand I deeply appreciate him.”  Goethe immersed himself in his scientific studies.

The next phase of Goethe’s life, relative to his creation of his fairy tale, would commence upon his meeting Friedrich Schiller, a younger philosopher, who would become a close friend.