Muhammad Ali (nee Cassius Clay) was born on 17 January 1942 at 18:35 in Louisville Kentucky with Jupiter in Gemini and Saturn in Taurus. His Saturn is conjunct the planet of rebellion, Uranus, and so it is worth noting early on that Saturn transits will carry the flavour of this rebellion. Ali was one of the greatest heavyweight boxers (well THE greatest according to him) this century and he was especially noted for his clever aphorisms. His famous quote “I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee” is a perfect example of his Jupiter and Saturn placements. No one wanted to get hit by Muhammad Ali!
In the years between his first Jupiter return and Saturn opposition (he only had one of each during adolescence), the young Cassius began his training as a boxer after he went to “whump” a thief who had stolen his bicycle. Advised to take up boxing to improve his chances, Cassius felt drawn to the atmosphere of the ring. After a shaky start, he won his first bout later that year in a state competition.
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His road to Olympic success was paved by first a series of Saturn oppositions to his natal Uranus (Dec 1955-August 1956), a series of Saturn opposition to his natal Jupiter Jan 1957-Oct 1957) and then a series of Jupiter oppositions to his natal Uranus (Jan 1959-Sept 1959). His professional boxing debut on 29 Oct 1960 is marked by a trine to natal Uranus. Saturn was in a square aspect to his natal Uranus when he defeated the intimidating Sonny Liston on 25 February 1964.
One of his most memorable taunts were to Liston, who Ali called a “big ugly bear” and said Liston “even smells like a bear”. He added that after he beat him, he would donate Liston to the zoo. The vocal antics of Clay meant that he is the only boxer in history who defined the terms of his public reputation (according to Joyce Carol Oates). We can see the rebelliousness in the transits of Jupiter and Saturn to his natal Uranus during these formative years.
Clay’s interest in Islam began in 1959, the year transiting Jupiter in Sagittarius opposed it’s natal position. The 19th year of a person’s life is when they begin to make serious decision regarding their careers and reputations, particularly as both Jupiter and Saturn are in Clay’s natal 10th house. Added to this mix is the ecclesiastical nature of Sagittarius and we can see a religious conversion in the making. Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali in the months just before his second Jupiter return (June 1965).
One of the biggest fears a Jupiter in Gemini native faces is the fear of being called out on their intelligence (or perceived lack of). As I wrote in “Growing Pains“: The problem can be that these learners won’t take the leap of faith it takes to put the sounds of letters together to form words. They memorise long passages of familiar books and even know when to turn the page. Because they are such natural mimics, the teachers think they are OK to move onto bigger, more complicated books. So down come the thicker books with far more complicated passages and fewer pictures and out comes independent reading time where pupils are expected to sit for longer periods of time “reading.”
Looking at jumbles of letters that seem to make no coherent sense is only fun for a few minutes. Soon the group start doing what they like to do best: chatting. So the teacher comes down on them quite hard. They are punished for not being able to “read” and the learners get the distinct impression that reading is all important, God-like even. By a miraculous process, many of the pupils suddenly get it and are reading fluently, quietly and with voracity. For them the heavenly chorus of “hallelujah!” sounds. e class quickly polarises into those who can read and those who can’t, with those who can’t read being forced to kneel at the altar of knowledge until they are see the light and convert.”
As most of us now recognise, there are many types of intelligence besides book intelligence. Unfortunately, in the 1960s, this wasn’t the case when Ali was made to take an intelligence test and was found to have an IQ of 78–too low to be drafted. “I said was the greatest, not the smartest”, Ali quipped. In 1966, the army relaxed their standards, leaving Ali eligible for the draft.
As transiting Jupiter Cancer opposed his natal Sun in 1966, Ali took his heavyweight title on the road, travelling abroad to find worth contenders. He was eventually stripped of his title for his refusal to be drafted, fined, sentenced to five years in prison and was denied a boxing license in every state whilst waiting for an appeal. “My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape or kill my mother and father…. How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.” Thus he didn’t fight between the ages of 25-29 and his license was only reinstated in time for a series of three Saturn conjunctions to his natal North Node between May 1969 and February 1970.
Saturn in Taurus makes for a pretty formidable opponent.
As I wrote in “Growing Pains”: “Unlike with Saturn in Aries children, hitting and aggression shouldn’t be too much of a problem because these children do not like physical discomfort (and hitting someone often hurts the hitter more than the target). The rare fights will be spectacular and injuries will be likely.” True to form, Ali teased and antagonised his first opponent, Joe Frazier, without mercy (saying he was too dumb and ugly to be champ) in the run up to their big match in March just before Ali’s first Saturn return. Ali lost. Saturn often has to bring us to our knees before we can stand up again more determined. He won a re-match against Frazier in 1974 as Jupiter transited his natal descendant.
Later in 1971 he also teased Wilt Chamberlain so badly it intimidated him into calling off the fight. “Timber!” Ali would call out during press conferences, referring to Chamberlain’s 7 foot 2 inch height.
The defeat of Frazier in 1974, set up the famous “Rumble in the Jungle” with George Foreman. During this time, Jupiter was in the middle of a series of three oppositions to his natal North Node. Ali was was known for his “rope-a-dope” boxing moves strategy whereby he would taunt his opponent into hitting him. A clever trick worthy of Jupiter in Gemini! Ali wore his opponent out and eventually knocked him out.
The next great fight was the “Thrilla in Manila” in October 1975 against Joe Frazier again. This time, Saturn was in a series of oppositions to Ali’s natal Sun. Ali won by technical knockout–and conceded that Frazier was “the greatest fighter in the world–next to me”.
Ali’s boxing career declined after this point and he suffered several losses and in July 1979 as Jupiter transited his natal ascendant, he formerly retired from boxing. By this time he was exhibiting early signs of Parkinson’s but nevertheless was cleared to come out of retirement in 1980 to fight Larry Holmes. It was said the brutal loss contributed to the worsening symptoms of Parkinson’s. Saturn was in harsh aspects by transit to his Moon, MC, Chiron and Mercury when he was finally diagnosed in 1984.
Jupiter was in a series of semisesquiquadrates to Uranus when Ali lit the Olympic flame at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996. Who could fail to be moved the sight of the great man struggling to fulfil this honour? Later that year “When We Were Kings” a film about the famous Rumble in the Jungle fight was released starring Will Smith as Ali. Smith (born 25 September 1968 at 1:46 am in Philadelphia) shares several striking features with Ali. Smith’s Uranus is conjunct Ali’s Neptune and his Neptune opposes Al’s natal Saturn/Uranus conjunction. Small astrological wonder then that Smith was hailed for his performance as Ali!
Ali continued to do limited promotional work for his books and was a “UN Messenger of Peace” to Afghanistan in 2002 just after another series of three Saturn transits by conjunctions to his natal Jupiter. In 2012, Jupiter transited this point when the great Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic torch one last time in London.
On the day of his death, President Barack Obama, not an astrologer (at least not that I am aware of) perfectly summarised a man with Saturn conjunct Uranus: “We watched a hero light a torch and fight his greatest fight on the world stage once again; a disease that ravaged his body but couldn’t take the spark from his eyes. Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it. We are all better for it.”