Britney Spears - The Princess of Pop and the myth of Persephone
In late 2021 US megastar Britney Spears was liberated from a 14-year court-ordered restraint which had placed her under the control of her father. In this comprehensive, timestamped analysis of a troubling saga that triggered worldwide protests, astrological motifs emerge as well as resonances to a famous mythical story
After a stressful 2007 and police stand-off in January 2008, pop star Britney Spears was forced into a court-ordered agreement which placed her father as the administrator of her estate – a conservatorship. She was caught between her father’s alleged negligence and her management company’s perceived greed until November 2021 when, after a tumultuous series of court appearances and public protest, the court dissolved the conservatorship and returned Spears to a legally autonomous status.
Here we will explore the astrology of this troubling saga – starting from the beginning of her professional solo music career. Whether the reader has an interest in Britney Spears’ life is of little import; what matters is that this story is well documented (a must for astrologers), and even comes with timestamps for important events (a bonus), making this an important case study for our field as we assess astrology’s value in addressing the subject of human trafficking.
Britney Spears came on the music scene in 1999 with her debut album, Baby One More Time… to immediate commercial success. Spears had already achieved childhood stardom through her multi-year stint in children’s variety show The Mickey Mouse Club alongside castmates Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake.
But being raised in a media-forward environment couldn’t prepare Spears for the persistent pressures of being a global pop icon. As Spears’ popularity grew, so did big media’s attempt to belittle her work and what she achieved through frequent comparisons to rising singer-songwriters labelled ‘anti-Britneys’ – Michelle Branch, Vanessa Carlton, Avril Lavigne, P!nk, Nelly Furtado, etc. YouTube was relatively nascent when one of its early stars, Cara Cunningham (then publishing under the name Chris Crocker) became famous for her video ‘Leave Britney Alone’, and even South Park – a show known for its profane use of satire to question societal mores – aired an episode focusing on the ways in which the public bashed and berated Spears, elevating her to worldwide fame only to unabashedly bully her life and image for quick profits and a laugh.
Upon review, the astrology for Britney Spears’ debut album hints at future crisis and hints that, even at this early stage, she may have been overworked. This chart, set for midnight at the producing label’s headquarters, features the Sun applying to a tense opposition of Mars and Saturn in the latter degrees of cardinal signs. The lunation preceding (not shown) had Venus at 26° Capricorn, tightly configured into this t-square. These degrees are highly sensitive ones for Spears, as we will see, recurringly activated during pivotal and often traumatic moments in her career.
It was eight years later that things would start to spiral out of control. The year 2007 was chaotic for Spears – that was when Spears shaved her head in dramatic fashion, and in response to an unrelenting paparazzi, tried to break a car window with an umbrella. Media painted Spears as on the verge of a psychotic break, diagnosing a mental health crisis from a distance, and public concern for Spears’ mental health became a headline topic of the year.
Spears yields to the LAPD
Tensions mounted at home, too. On 3 January 2008, Spears became engaged in a four-hour standoff with the Los Angeles Police Department because she refused to hand her sons over to their father, Kevin Federline. Spears was taken away from the scene on a stretcher, and in response, sole custody was awarded to Federline. This is an incredibly important event, because it set in motion a series of escalating legal responses which resulted in Spears’ life and livelihood being confined within the parameters of a conservatorship.
The scene began four hours earlier1 when Pluto at 29° Sagittarius sat on the Descendant and ended at 10:50 pm as Pluto moved by primary motion to conjoin the 4th-house cusp. In exact opposition is Mars retrograde at 28° Gemini, square the Ascendant, and Venus conjunct the debut album’s Pluto at 5° Sagittarius. The themes of the Pluto and Venus overlay, intermixed with Mars afflicting from mutable signs, will prove to be repeat signatures in the charts which follow.
Spears is shown by Mercury in the 4th, conjunct Spears’ natal Ascendant-ruler Venus at 25° Capricorn (where Pluto is now transiting). Here, Mercury is disposited by Saturn the ruler of the 5th house of children. These two melancholic planets are in mutual reception by sign, but Saturn is retrograde and in the 12th house which points to a forced separation between mother and children.
Mercury is under the Sun’s beams, in a recent sextile to a debilitated Moon, which underscores the fragility of Spears’ mental state. We find Mars in the Midheaven: police were on site, working as an armed force to negotiate with Britney during the standoff. The children’s significator, Saturn, is in a mutually applying trine to Jupiter, ruler of the 7th house (we’ll take Jupiter to signify Kevin Federline). The mutually applying trine of Jupiter to Saturn shows the restoration of the children to the father.
The Ascendant of 27° Virgo lies on Spears’ natal 12th-house Mars, connecting to themes of forced restraint and being stripped of autonomy. The chart’s Venus is in exact conjunction with Spears’ natal 12th-ruler, Mercury. Following this event, Spears was hospitalised for an involuntary psychiatric evaluation and placed under a court-ordered conservatorship with her father, Jamie Spears, serving as chief conservator. This conservatorship’s mandate to protect Britney soon morphed into a state-sanctioned case of human trafficking. Under the provisions of the conservatorship, Spears was forced to go on tour against her own will (coerced labour), was unable to hire her own legal counsel, and had no legal avenue for accessing revenues earned while under the conservatorship. It isn’t an exaggeration to suggest that nearly everything had been taken from Spears while she sat captive, waiting on the mercy of the state to sanction her release.
Spears’ celebrity may obscure an obvious [though not literal] parallel: in chronicling the saga of the Spears conservatorship, we see unfold the myth of Persephone’s rape and abduction by Hades.
Tracing lines of mythological consensus, the story of Persephone’s abduction by Hades goes thus. Hades coveted the beautiful maiden Persephone, daughter of Demeter and Zeus. Sensing that Demeter would obstruct Hades in his intentions with her daughter, Hades sidestepped Demeter and petitioned her father, Zeus, directly. Hades introduces a plan to abduct Persephone and bring her to the underworld, which Zeus bewilderingly approves. As she descends to the lower depths, Persephone is forced to leave her material possessions behind with no hope of return.
Demeter, unaware of her daughter’s whereabouts, became miserable and desolate. In her grief, she caused nothing to grow. She is later told of the abduction and Zeus’ participation in it. Sympathetic gods and a starving people raged against Zeus to restore Persephone to the overworld. Reactively responding to public pressure, Zeus demanded that Hades return Persephone, and Hades acquiesces – but not before tricking Persephone through the cunning use of the humble pomegranate. By consuming food from the underworld, she was condemned to return to Hades for a third of the year – the time we mark as winter in the northern hemisphere, when most organic life turns inward in hibernation. But for two-thirds of the year, she is reunited with the overworld (and her material possessions) during spring and summer, and vegetative growth returns to the world.
In both instances, we have a father figure making a deal with a symbol of great wealth (Hades = Pluto, which derives from Greek ploutos meaning ‘wealth’), that being the sale of his daughter into hellish captivity. The daughter is abducted in the prime of life, stripped of her material possessions, sentenced to the underworld, and held enslaved as an object of desire. The common people, the nobility, and even gods in heaven united in demanding the father undo his faithless injustice. The father caves to this pressure, and greed’s grip is loosened, and the daughter’s life is restored to her… mostly.
The Greek myth ends with a woman being released – not wholly, for she will never be freed of the trauma borne of her abduction, and she will have to return to that dark place each year; but something of the life Persephone had before was restored to her. Spears is now free of the conservatorship, but the effects of something like this are long-reaching and unlikely to be fully resolved by simply dissolving the conservatorship.
Perhaps the reason why Britney’s battle against her conservatorship evokes such clear comparisons to the myth of Persephone’s abduction is because the former is predicated on the hard contacts of Venus and Pluto. Persephone is sometimes called Kore or Kora, meaning ‘maiden’ – there is no planet better positioned to represent the archetype of youthful femininity than Venus.
Piece of Me
It is worth exploring the astrology of the tour Spears explicitly stated was forced upon her, both legs of which connected to her fifth studio album, Piece of Me. In 2013, she started a Las Vegas residency, which concluded in 2017. In 2018, the show hit the road and toured in select cities across the United States and Europe.
In the chart for the start of the Vegas residency, familiar themes emerge. The 10th-ruler Venus was at 28° Capricorn, retrograding to a sextile of Saturn, ruler of the 6th. The 6th house has a long-standing association with forced labour and slavery and is all the more influential over Venus as her dispositor. The Ascendant-ruler, Mercury, is combust on the cusp of the turned 8th from the 10th. Combustion points to secret things, hidden things, and also being overpowered by some greater force (e.g., a father or management company might be appropriate given the combusting planet is the Sun in Capricorn). The radical 5th, as turned 8th from the 10th, often shows nefarious, dark, deathly things in close association with career, politics or matters of high visibility, so the conjunction’s placement upon this cusp is telling – as is the connection this conjunction makes to the conservatorship’s seed charts which contain early degrees of Capricorn on the Ascendant. And finally, Ceres was at 20° Libra, transiting Spears’ natal Saturn/Pluto/Ceres conjunction in late Libra.5
The second chart is set for the commencement of the Piece of Me tour. It features Venus in conjunction with Ceres in the 8th house, and a New Moon opposing Pluto across angles. The Sun, Moon and Pluto all in exact square to the Midheaven of 20° Libra – the relevancy of which should now be apparent. 28° Sagittarius ascends – this degree is the midpoint of the conservatorship’s natal Venus/Pluto conjunction and was on the Midheaven of the lunation perfect as the conservatorship was made permanent (i.e., 28 October 2008).
Jonathan Ross show and what was edited out
The first time Spears publicly addressed her conservatorship was late September 2016 in an interview for The Jonathan Ross Show. Why did the discussion come up at that time – why nearly a decade later? It seems almost drawn out by prevalent astrological tides. Venus cycles last eight years – this interview fell eight years after the establishment of the conservatorship, just as Spears’ career began to careen off the rails eight years after her debut album’s release. Further, the lunation preceding the interview was a Full Moon at 24° Pisces opposite the Sun at 24° Virgo (conjunct Spears’ natal 12th-house Mars). A t-square was formed by transiting Mars at 23° Sagittarius, opposite his place in the lunation corresponding with the initial provision of the conservatorship (24° Gemini).
What was televised of that interview is now available on YouTube for streaming. Jonathan Ross, the interviewer, didn’t know how to talk to Spears about anything other than the ways in which her life might appeal to men – to the extent that Jonathan Ross’ guest had to tell him that she’s not looking for a man and happy with herself. (The audience cheered.) Next, Ross moved to a game of ‘never have I ever’, one of those hormonal games played by puberty-stricken teenagers when parents are out of town, which led to questions about how Spears dresses, and whether she tries to relive any of the sexier looks from her early career. The interview ended with a game of beer pong. Ross treated Spears like patronising men tend to treat Venus: as an object of desire with no intrinsic value outside what pleasure she can arouse in others. Despite the onslaught of sexist, patronising questions, Spears maintained composure, dignity and grace: a true southern belle.
Interestingly (and unsurprisingly), Spears’ acknowledgement of, and comments about, her court-ordered conservatorship were edited out of the segment that aired.
The conservatorship ends
The lunation preceding the court’s decision to end the conservatorship has signatures of the breaking of bonds. The New Moon at 12° Scorpio opposes Uranus in the 3rd, shattering legal contracts and agreements. Venus is in the 11th, a signature of freedom, further supported by Venus’ impending ingress into a sign in the earthy triplicity which Venus rules by day. Venus is right on the Venus/Pluto conjunction from the inception chart (29° Sagittarius) – and the Midheaven degree of 6° Sagittarius unites the Pluto from Spears’ debut album launch and the Venus in the LAPD intervention chart, as well as Spears’ own natal 12th-ruler Mercury. Ceres conjoins the 4th house cusp which shows the far-reaching ends of things; the 4th-ruler (Mercury) falls at 28° Libra in the 8th. Mercury ruling the 4th house gives voice and platform to share her story, hopefully to bring attention to similar cases of state-sanctioned trafficking of women around the world (note Mercury’s immediate sextile to Venus).
And it seems that Britney is planning to do exactly that. At the time of writing this, though nothing has been confirmed, word on the ground is that Spears’ media team is in talks with Oprah Winfrey for a tell-all interview. If this arrangement proceeds, it seems unlikely that something would air before summer. In mid-October 2022, Venus and the Sun travel in the last third of Libra together in square to Pluto at 26° Capricorn. Venus’ conjunction to the Sun also links in with Oprah Winfrey’s nativity – she was born with Venus cazimi in Aquarius, has the conservatorship’s Pluto degree (29° Sagittarius) rising. She has built an empire on sharing the stories of women on her international platform, and the signatures of her nativity and the conservatorship have a great deal of synastry. As transiting Venus and the Sun approach an exact square to Pluto in mid-October, Mars will be at 24° Gemini, preparing for its retrograde station at 25° Gemini – a return to its radical place when the conservatorship went into effect. I’ll be watching for something to come around this period.
Human trafficking has become a global topic with Pluto’s tour of the final 10 degrees of Capricorn. The later degrees of cardinal signs have shaken up key players in child sex trafficking accusations: Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell, Prince Andrew, Virginia Giuffre, etc. In closing, I encourage all those with an interest in mundane astrology to study Spears’ experience with trafficking as a guide in reviewing relevant charts for the situation now unfolding in the cases related to Jeffrey Epstein (e.g., nativities, lunations prior to major life events, commencement of trials/opening statements of the prosecution, etc.).
- Timestamps provided by this Guardian article: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/jan/04/usa.musicnews. I’d like to thank Wendy Stacey for bringing this event to my attention.
- On this date, the asteroid Persephone was at 6° Sagittarius, which is very near Spears’ natal 12th ruler, Mercury, and Venus’ degree at the time of the LAPD standoff. In the chart for Spears’ yielding to the LAPD, Persephone was at 26° Scorpio, in partile conjunction with that chart’s Moon. Thank you to Michael Morris for noticing Persephone’s continued participation in these charts, and credit is theirs for any reference to Persephone in the footnotes.
- On this date, the asteroid Persephone was at 26° Sagittarius, conjunct the conservatorship’s natal Venus/Pluto conjunction.
- Demeter is the Greek name given to Persephone’s mother, and the Latin equivalent to Demeter is named Ceres. Thank you to Demetra George for calling this to my attention.
- Persephone was at 1° Capricorn on this date, conjunct the Ascendant-ruler Mercury and near Spears’ natal 4th-house cusp.
- At that time, asteroids Ceres and Persephone were conjunct, Persephone being at 11° Gemini – and to use an observation borrowed from Michael Morris, this is a signature of ‘the maiden returned to the mother’.