The Brothers & Their Mother
Interpretation by Kathy Biehl
The mad magic that the Marxes released onstage was there own, but the driving force that got them before the public in the first place was their mother, Minnie. Even without knowing her birthdate -- I haven't found one in a reference book, Groucho's birth certificate in The Groucho Phile doesn't give it, and even if one were floating around, I wouldn't trust the year, given this woman's attention to packaging -- a good deal about her can be gleaned from her sons' incredibly informative charts. The way to do it is by looking at the moon, because its position and aspects reveal a person's experience of his mother. All of the brothers' moons have aspects laden with power issues. Though each gives a slightly different view, the picture that emerges is of a masculine, aggressive woman whose focus was not on a mother's traditional role. Through the eyes of four of them, she was seductively, mystically powerful, capable of anything, including miracles, and hellbent on transforming their lives.
Emotional distance is a theme in their moon placements. Chico's moon is in Aquarius, which loves humanity at a distance and as a concept, but does not want or have the capacity for intimacy. He saw her as a talker, a stalwart pal, maybe even an equal, but not a milk-and-cookies- after-school mommy. (She didn't cook; that was the domain and specialty of their father.) Groucho and Zeppo have their moons in the equally detached sign of Gemini. Since this is in a mutable (changeable) sign, they saw her not just as a facile talker, but as undependable and elusive. (Not surprisingly, they are the middle and the last child.) Gummo's moon continues the theme of independence and adds a note of warmth. His moon is in Sagittarius, which is just as changeable and hard to tie down as Gemini. When it's around, though, it's vibrant and fun and playful. Harpo is the only one with a traditional maternal overtones to his moon, and his is in Megamom territory, Cancer. He alone would have seen her as caring and nurturing, and would have looked to her for emotional support (and would have received it). With Mars opposing his moon, though, she may have couched this caring in aggressive terms of ultimatums and threats (like "take a nap or I'll spank you").
Four of their moons aspect the Neptune/Pluto (N/P) conjunction that appears in all of their charts. (Zeppo's is the exception.) The fact that they all have a N/P conjunction is not remarkable. This kind of aspect is common to a generation, because it involves outer planets (the outermost two, in fact), which have an extremely slow-moving orbit. Anyone born at the end of the 19th century would have this. As a generational influence this conjunction indicated a changing of the guard in fundamental societal attitudes. For the Marxes, it took the form of an irresistible, overwhelming transformative influence in the flesh, which did not comply with the role that society and tradition assigned to her gender. The N/P contacts to the moon show a master of subterfuge and deception, an iron fist in a glove so velvet and compelling that it blinded people to the tyranny of its contents.
This influence did not have an identical impact on the brothers. Chico and Gummo had the potential for the most combative interaction with her. Chico's moon squares the N/P conjunction, which shows his need for distance and freedom being fundamentally at odds with his mother's domination. He needed to break away and assert his independence, and she let him. In fact, she indulged him anything, with beneficient Jupiter trining his moon. Issuing him orders would have ensured his disappearance; allowing him to run off and try various ventures at a young age made it possible for him to come back. Bottomless adoration would have been irresistible to such an egocentric personality. Gummo's moon opposes the N/P conjunction. With him, there would have been not so much a head-on clash, as with Chico, as a seesaw between Gummo's needs and Minnie's dictates. An opposition requires finding a point of balance. The perfect compromise for this one occurred when Gummo decided to join the service. It served both his and Minnie's purposes: He got out of the act, and she got her older sons protected from the draft. The move no doubt shifted the pressure on Gummo for the rest of his life: he never returned to the stage.
Harpo's relationship was more harmonious. His moon is in a trine (a harmonious, easy flow of energy) to the N/P conjunction. His emotional wants and needs were in harmony with his mother's grandiose schemes. Groucho's, on the other hand, were absolutely enmeshed with her. He has the most intense and troubled moon and, not surprisingly, had the most troubled relationship with his mother. His moon is conjunct the N/P conjunction. The Pluto contact is a blueprint for a tyrant; Neptune adds an otherworldly element that could be anything from religiosity to delusion to craziness. He needed intimacy with his mother desperately, irrationally and obsessively, and with the moon being in Gemini, there is no way he would ever have it.
The moon contacts to the N/P conjunction made all of them idealize their mother to the point of goddesshood (and delusion) and accord her slavish, irrational devotion. Groucho would have been the most extreme. The fact that Zeppo's moon doesn't touch the tricky N/P conjunction suggests that he didn't buy into the cult of Minnie. He definitely went head-to-head with her both his sun and his Mars square his moon, but she didn't have the stranglehold on his life that the others enjoyed. Interestingly, he's the youngest by some 10 years, so during his early days she would have been completely consumed with steering the careers of his older brothers.
Copyright Kathy Biehl 1999. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for electronic replication or distribution of this article only if you include the copyright notice.
(This page was originally created for Frank Bland's 'Why A Duck?' website)