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© by Zane B. Stein

Glyph for Damocles


Damocles' whole orbit only takes 41.01 years, even though it ranges from near Mars almost to Uranus! (Check out this Robert's Damocles page for a clear picture of this strange orbit.) Anyway, this odd strange things to it astrologically. It seems to stay in Aquarius forever. It moved into that sign in the early 1950's, and didn't leave until the 1980's. And yet, from 1989-1991, it moved through every sign from Aries through Sagittarius! How intriguing that, when it was finally discovered Feb 18, 1991, it was not found in the sign Aquarius where it spends most of its time, but at 11 Scorpio 05, yet with Sun in Aquarius. That discovery position happened to be conjunct the Sun in the U.S.S.R. chart. I'll get back to that in a bit.

Here follows the letter I received in 1995 from Robert McNaught, discoverer of Damocles:

"Dear Mr. Stein,
The time of the exposure was 1991 Feb 18.52973 UT to 18.57140 UT and the object was discovered on that plate perhaps 20 hours later when I scanned it.
The scope was the 1.2-m U.K. Schmidt Telescope of the Anglo-Australian Observatory (situated at Siding Spring in NSW. Note that Siding Spring Observatory on the same mountain is a different institution.) The scope is basically the same as the big Palomar Schmidt. We do not take photos ourselves, but scan the plates taken for other purposes, mostly the southern sky survey. Since 1990, we have found about 8 NEA's each year. 1991 DA is not an NEA but was certainly a most interesting discovery.
Confirmation was by myself using the 0.5-m Uppsala Southern Schmidt on 1991 Feb. 19.67361 UT.
Robert McNaught"

Damocles may have something to do with the nature of the sign Aquarius. Think what percentage of people with Sun in Aquarius must have their Sun conjunct Damocles!


You may remember the story of Damocles, but it is well worth repeating. Damocles, by the way, was a real person, although through the ages his story has taken on the quality of a myth. He lived in Syracuse, Sicily in the 4th Century BC, and was a member of the court of Dionysius II.

In many ways, Damocles was a decent sort, but he had a very bad habit: he was an excessive flatterer. He would constantly talk about how wonderful Dionysius was, how great and marvelous it was to be such a powerful ruler, and how much he (Damocles) would love to have such great wealth as his ruler. Eventually, Dionysius grew tired of this, and decided to teach Damocles a lesson.

So the ruler invited Damocles to the palace for a feast. When he arrived, everywhere he looked he saw wondrous food, and great wealth. He must have thought he was being rewarded for his loyalty. All went well, until he was seated, and had occasion to look up. For there, hanging directly over his head, was a very large, sharp sword. And it was tied, not with a rope, but with a single hair. An excellent lesson, I think, for the sword symbolized the omnipresent danger that accompanied the wealth and material pleasures of being the ruler.

Since then, the phrase, "Sword of Damocles" has come to represent any threat of danger, or an impending threat of personal disaster.


As I mentioned, when Damocles was discovered, it was conjunct the U.S.S.R.'s perhaps we could say that the Sword was hanging over the Soviet Union, ready to drop any second. That seems especially fitting, considering what occurred throughout that year:

April 9, Georgia declared independence from USSR
June 25, Croatia and Slovenia delcared their independence from Yugoslavia
Aug. 20, Estonia declared independence from USSR
Aug. 21, Latvia  declared independence from USSR
Aug. 27, Moldova declared independence from USSR
Aug. 31, Kyrgyzstan declared independence from USSR
Sep.  8, Macedonia declared independence from USSR
Sep.  9, Tajikistan declared independence from USSR
Sep. 23, Armenia declared independence from USSR
Oct. 15, Boznia & Herzegovina adopted a declaration of sovereignty
Oct. 27, Turkmenistan declared independence from USSR
Late '91, Chechyna declared independence from USSR
Dec.  1, Ukraine declared independence from USSR
Dec. 16, Kazakhstan declared independence from USSR
Dec. 26, USSR disbanded


We have only begun to study Damocles, but there seems to be two themes in its astrological nature. First, it appears to be related to a high level of stress. This would fit in very well with the above story, for there is a great deal of stress related to a feeling that something terrible is going to happen.

Second, there have been numerous cases where, at a Damocles return, a person's life took an irreversible turn into a new direction. This might be the Damocles return. But a few other things happen near the age of 40: Neptune square natal Neptune, and Uranus opposition natal Uranus. The only way we can verify just how much influence the Damocles return has is to limit our research to exact Damocles returns, or at most 15' from exact. Only then will we be able to perceive a clear picture of its influence.

Dr. Gerald P. Koocher coined the phrase "Damocles Syndrome", when he noted that young cancer patients who managed to 'beat' cancer, or go into remission, carried a stressful feeling for years that they were going to take seriously ill again. It was like the sword was constantly hanging over their head, and they never knew if, or when, it would fall upon them. He published a book on the subject, as well. I'm sure that this Syndrome ties into our astrological Damocles in some way, and it would be a worthwhile project to study Damocles in such cancer survivors. Here is an article about such Cancer patients in the New York Times


Just published! Damocles positions, for every 10 days, 1900-2050. Includes Longitude, Latitude and Declination, PLUS the exact times of each Damocles station, PLUS an introduction including the charts of a few individuals with close conjunctions of Damocles to important points in their charts.

Available currently as a PDF. Cost: $15 Australian Dollars. Click here to go to my order page: Damocles Ephemeris.


Mark Andrew Holmes has an interesting article on Damocles at


There is a website called with the purpose of showing compassion towards death row inmates.

Damocles, Click here to find out how to discover where your Damocles is.

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