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Death of a healer: Stephen Russell, the Barefoot Doctor

Stephen Russell horoscope

I come to analyze Stephen’s horoscope, not to praise him.

At the end of January 2020 Stephen Russell died, at the age of 65.  Stephen was a healer and mystic, who styled himself after the barefoot doctors of traditional Chinese medicine.  They would travel around the country, dispensing wisdom, healing and magic.  Not surprisingly, Stephen was an expert on Tai Chi and acupuncture.  He was also a successful writer, his first sole-authored book,
Barefoot Doctor’s Handbook for the Urban Warrior: Spiritual Survival Guide, being published in 1998.

I didn’t know Stephen well, and the last time I spoke to him was in 2010.  He gave me some advice about websites and cameras, and around that time we also spoke about his horoscope.  I seem to remember that he had Leo rising, but I no longer have his birth time.  However, I never did Stephen’s chart in a professional setting, and I never acted as his astrologer.  If that had been the case, I wouldn’t be free to write this blog post.

I looked on the internet for information about his birth time.  One astrological author, Mary Evans, wrote that it was “before breakfast”.  If so, that might suggest Virgo rising.  Yet Ruby Warrington asked him about various prominent features of his horoscope, and he replied “Leo ascendant, the performer on stage. Pisces moon, the psychic, trippy aspect. And it’s Venus in Scorpio that makes me sexy.”  So I will set up his chart for 4 a.m., for London, when Leo was rising.  But I’ll interpret the chart as if I don’t know his precise time, and I will assume that he was born some time between 3 and 8 a.m.

When I do a chart, the first thing I do, even before looking at the Sun sign, is weigh up the elements of the seven traditional planets – in other words, the Sun through to Saturn.  Stephen had four planets in Water signs, namely the Moon in Pisces, Venus and Saturn in Scorpio and Jupiter in Cancer.  He had two planets in Earth signs, which were the Sun in Virgo and Mars in Capriorn, one planet in an Air sign (Mercury in Libra) and no planets in Fire signs.

This means that Stephen was a Water-Earth person.  These are the negative elements, the Yin rather than the Yang.  Now I understand that might sound strange.  Stephen was a dynamic person, who had definite leadership qualities.  However, he was also a reflector of the times that he was living in – the zeitgeist, if you like.  And with the passivity of all that Water, he could be very reassuring.  If Stephen said things were OK, then they really were OK.

At least that was my experience when I visited him for acupunture in early 1999, in his clinic in West Hampstead.  I was stressed out and worried, and his words and needles made me feel a whole lot better.  And I should say that in his healing, he exemplified the principle that it is the healer and not the treatment that matters.  I actually think that it is the same with many aspects of conventional medicine.  Two different doctors can give you the same course of antibiotics for the same infection, but it’s often the doctor with the healing touch who  actually cures the infection.

Stephen’s sun sign was Virgo.  This makes sense.  He was a healer, and the body and its movement were important to him.  At the same time, Virgos are often perfectionists, and finding this perfection, in themselves and in others, can be difficult.  Matters were made more compliated by the fact that he was born in the immediate aftermath of a Full Moon, with his Moon in Virgo’s opposite sign of Pisces.  Like many Full Moon people, there were probably two sides to him.  The Moon in Pisces can be sensitive and emotional while the  Sun in Virgo tends to be analytical, materialistic and perhaps even harsh.  I expect he could have switched between the two very quickly.

Yet Stephen’s Moon was strong, being in Pisces in trine aspect to Jupiter in Cancer.  In other words, the two planets were in mutual reception, the Moon being in a sign ruled by Jupiter, Jupiter being in a signed ruled by the Moon.  Matters were further helped by the fact that Stephen was almost certainly born before dawn.  The Moon is strong in a night time chart when it is also above the horizon and in a feminine sign.

The strong Moon emphasized the Yin over the Yang.  It also put Stephen in touch with wider currents, relating to people and society.  He knew what was going on at a particular time, and he was able to respond accordingly.  This meant that he was ready to respond to the exploding interest in alternative medicine and self-help, which characterized his adult life from the early 1970s onwards.

We also need to remember that Stephen wrote lots of books.  I remember, in the late 1990s, discussing writing with him.  For me, writing is an effort.  I have to think and analyze, in a frantic struggle to get the words out.  I can’t remember precisely how Stephen described his writing process, but it was something emotional and non-intellectual.  The words just came out, without the clumsy intellect getting in the way.  This is a lunar process, and it reminds us that the Moon, just as much as Mercury, is a planet of communication.

Stephen’s Mercury was in Libra.  He was able to communicate in a reassuring and balanced way.  However, the Mercury was exactly square his Mars in Capricorn.  This combination is suggestive of verbal aggression, and the ability to cut people down with carefully chosen words.  Perhaps people who got close to him experienced this Mercury-Mars square.  Stephen might also have been more tense than he appeared on the surface.

The Mercury-Mars square is going to say something about his writing.  Mars in Capricorn is ambitous, and it is struggling to communicate its need to be successful.  That first book, Barefoot Doctor’s Handbook for the Urban Warrior: Spiritual Survival Guide, may have been a struggle for him, even if he didn’t admit it.  And it was the breakthrough for his writing career.

Interestingly, Stephen had Mars conjunct the North Node.  The North Node represents one’s destiny, the path one should be heading in.  In Stephen’s case this North Node was coloured by Mars, the warrior planet.  His destiny was to be a warrior, and this was reflected in the title of his first book.  However in his next incarnation I would expect the warrior principle to be more pronounced.  So in thirty or forty years time, when you see an interview with a charismatic guerrilla leader, rifle in hand, consider the possibility that Stephen’s back.

When considering the healing arts, astrologers often look at a minor planet called Chiron.  I don’t use Chiron in my work, but for Stephen I will make an exception.  In mythology Chiron is the wounded healer – a centaur who was an expert healer, but who himself had a wound that could never be healed.  Stephen’s Chiron was at 23 Capricorn, opposition Jupiter and Uranus in Cancer, square Neptune in Libra.  In the jargon, this gives a T-Square, with Neptune trying to square the difference between Jupiter/Uranus and Chiron.  Stephen was struggling to integrate some deep and probably Karmic wound into his expansive, freedom-loving view of the world.  He might have felt he could do this through a type of personal dissolution, and this is maybe what he was doing in the early 1980s, when he was studying shamanism in Mexico.  So while I was a student in London reading Castenada’s The Teachings of Don Juan, he was out there in the field doing the real thing.

However, most people would not be able to integrate a Jupiter-Neptune-Chiron T-square into their everyday lives.  After all, we’re talking about generational and transpersonal energies.  They usually describe the time rather than the person.  In Stephen’s case he was, to some extent, able to intergrate them into his here and now, helped by the fact that his strong Moon was sextile Chiron and trine Jupiter.

And I think Stephen was able to bring these energies down to earth, in his healing practice.  To illustrate this, in the mid-1990s I was writing an astrology book, with a tight deadline.  I was under a lot of stress, and suffering from chronic insomnia.  I went to visit a friend in Maida Vale, and Stephen was there, along with one his students.  Stephen suggested that this student give me acupuncture, so I sat in an armchair while Stephen instructed her on how to stick a needle right between my eyes, just above the bridge of my nose.  The needle went in, and straight away I felt ill.  Then I passed out.  Minutes later I started coming round.  At first I didn’t know who or where I was.  Then I slowly returned to normal.  But in the following weeks my insomnia and stress massively reduced, and I was able to finish the book.  Stephen had been able to channel something through his student, that had released the blocked energy that had been messing me up.  Or at least that’s how it felt.

It would be nice to stop my analysis here, but there are other things to be considered.  Stephen, when describing himself to Ruby Warrington, talked about his “Venus in Scorpio that makes me sexy”.  That’s a flippant comment to make, about a planet that’s in the sign of its detriment.  Yes, Stephen was attractive to the opposite sex, and by all accounts he was blessed with sexual charisma.  I suppose you would have expected that from a self-described guru.  You would also expect that from someone who has Venus in Scorpio making a sextile aspect to Mars in Capricorn.  Indeed Reinhold Ebertin, in The Combination of Stellar Influences, described the positive manifestation of the Venus-Mars pair as “An early sexual maturity, the beginning of associations based purely on sex”.

Yet that is not the whole story.  Stephen has Venus conjunct Saturn, like Donald Trump.  This conjunction can be about women, and in the male chart there may be a tendency to objectify them.  When I recently discussed Trump’s Venus-Saturn conjunction, I mentioned that he appeared to have an obsession with physical appearance, and wanted the women around him to appear in a particular way.  And because he was rich, he was often able to choose his partners.  Stephen was not rich, yet he was very good at attracting women, even if the relationships tended not to last very long.  Virgo has an ideal about what a woman should be, but an ideal that is difficult if not impossible to realize, in the real world

At the same time, Stephen was able to benefit from women.  This is what we would expect from Venus conjunct Saturn, if you take the view that Venus strengthens Saturn, and Saturn weakens Venus.  Especially as Stephen had a strong Saturn in Scorpio, which was in mutural reception by sign to his Mars in Capricorn.

However, some of the  encounters Stephen had almost certainly damaged his career.  In the case of Donald Trump, his behavior towards women nearly derailed his run for the White House.  In the case of Stephen, The Guardian newspaper, in 2007, reported that he denied “allegations made to the patient group Witness that he made sexual overtures to patients in treatment”.  The article reported that Witness had received five complaints about Stephen’s behavior, and that he had made a statement “admitting to having sex with ex-patients in the past”.

I think that Stephen was let down by his Venus-Saturn conjunction.  It is a conjunction that dominates his horoscope, and it is made stronger by the fact that it is semisquare his Sun-Moon midpoint.  The Sun-Moon combination represents the cosmic marriage, the union of male and female.  Having Venus on the Sun-Moon midpoint makes one attractive and sympathetic, but put Saturn there as well and there could be problems.  Saturn intrudes, perhaps compulsively, and threatens to disrupt the cosmic union.

As far as Stephen’s death is concerned, I don’t have his exact time of birth, so there are limits to what I can say.  However, I am interested by the fact that on the night of January 23-24, when I believe Stephen died, Saturn was at about 24 degrees 7 Capricorn and Pluto was at 23 9 of the same sign.  This Saturn-Pluto conjunction was right on Stephen’s Chiron (23 17 Capricorn), and was also opposition his Jupiter and square his Neptune.  Saturn and Pluto were calling time on the T-Square that had inspired and sustained Stephen’s work.  The zeitgeist had moved on, and Stephen was no longer part of it.  He moved on also, to rediscover his relevance in a different time and probably a different place.

{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Lyn February 14, 2020, 12:55 pm

    Stephen didn’t pass on the 26th… he passed in his sleep on the 23rd/24th January.

    • Archie Dunlop February 14, 2020, 3:52 pm

      Thank you. I will amend the article.

  • Suzi February 17, 2020, 4:01 pm

    I use the Barefoot Doctor’s meditations – Especially the advanced techniques. I have always loved his approach. I am interested to discover what he died from? Can’t find anything on internet yet – do you know anything about cause of death?

    • Archie Dunlop February 17, 2020, 10:53 pm

      Thanks for visiting the site. I don’t know at the moment what he died from. As he was writing and making videos right to the end, and he had a retreat planned for May, I would have thought he was in reasonable health. While 65 is young to die, at least he was active right to the end.

    • Danny Greene July 18, 2023, 1:59 pm

      Stephen died at home from a massive heart attack. He was prolific in his work, right up to this point, making a video only the day before & uploading it to his social media platforms. Having read another comment about Barefoot having cancer, there’s no substance to this claim, however, he did overcome cancer twice in earlier years. I was fairly close to Stephen in the last two years of his life. We worked together on projects, mainly me helping him to promote them, & doing live streams together. I treasure these videos to this day. He’s still a huge miss & I do everything I can to keep his legacy & memory alive.

      • Archie Dunlop July 19, 2023, 6:03 am

        Thanks for the details – I never speculated about how he died. Still, it is quite clear than many people are missing him, at a time when genuine mystics are few and far between.

  • David March 18, 2020, 3:38 am

    He was called. He knew it. He knew why & he knew it was his time. i bet he went with a smile. more than that I bet he was totally composed & happy with it. to go and do what he was called to do. In another ‘form’, another ‘time’ another ‘space’.

    Take Care, D.

    • Archie Dunlop March 18, 2020, 3:55 am

      Thanks for visiting the site. Yes, I think he was called. We’re on Earth for a purpose, and when it is time to move on, that’s what we do. As I said, I didn’t know Stephen well, but he was certainly a healer. And he died in the midst of life, which I suppose is something that many of use aspire to.

  • David Factor May 24, 2020, 3:48 pm

    I believe the poor doctor had been suffering from cancer.

    • Archie Dunlop May 24, 2020, 7:16 pm

      Was he suffering from cancer? There was a video of him shortly before his death… wouldn’t that suggest something more sudden?

      • David Factor October 1, 2020, 6:06 pm

        Dear Archie. It would appear my information was from a malign source. Apologies

  • Wilhelmina Mockett October 25, 2020, 10:31 pm

    So interesting to read your analysis of this man. The Barefoot Doctor was very special to me- never knew him and never met him just came across his CDs by accident when I needed help it-and I’ve shared them with other people. So powerful and memorable. I was trying to get a &new copy when I heard he’d died. Really sad about that as I had hoped I’d meet him one day. But lovely to read posts referring to his next gig. Thank you

    • Archie Dunlop October 25, 2020, 10:39 pm

      I am sorry you never met Stephen. He was very human, with the strengths and weaknesses of a man who led a full life. And as a healer, he was remarkable.

  • Marilyn November 9, 2020, 9:20 pm

    I’ve only just seen that the Barefoot Doctor has passed. I attended 2 of his workshops in London in 2005 and 2006. I met him and still have a signed copy of Urban Warrior. I never had any sexual contact with him but I can understand why women did…he was incredibly charismatic and sexy. All I can say is the workshops and books helped me through the death of my dad and I still dip into them when I feel the need. He wasn’t perfect but he was a good man. RIP and thank you Doc xxx

    • Archie Dunlop November 9, 2020, 9:33 pm


      Yes, Stephen was very charismatic, and in terms of healing he had the magic touch. As you say, he wasn’t perfect, but no one is. He had a large following, and many people cherish his memory.

  • Norma Frase day November 13, 2020, 9:55 pm

    Stephen was an extraordinary man. I knew him professionally and he became a very dear friend. I moved to the States about 20 years ago and we lost touch. I am so saddened to hear he passed this year. What a beautiful soul he was. X

    • Archie Dunlop November 14, 2020, 2:26 am


      Sorry for your loss, and yes he was a very special person.

  • Tai Shan Li February 23, 2021, 5:06 pm

    Today I was about to purchase Stephen’s highly hyped Qigong training video but then I went to his website to learn that he died in 2020 at the young age of 65. Qigong produces good health and longevity. Since his qigong methods obviously did not work for him in that manner, I decided to not to pursue his qigong methods. But in watching a preview for that course I did admire the man’s great passion for Qigong.

    • Archie Dunlop February 28, 2021, 11:02 pm

      Just because someone dies relatively young doesn’t mean that the health system they advocate is flawed.

  • Phyllis walters March 10, 2021, 2:39 pm

    I didn’t pick up the news of stephen’s death until recently – I knew him well in the 90’s – and yes he was charismatic and very sexy – he also had rare insight and was incredibly witty – I can’t see that anyone has mentioned his humourous take on life – he was enormously insightful and a very valued friend and confident – a special soul for sure .

  • Clara Apollo May 4, 2021, 12:27 pm

    Very interesting article thank you. I am ever intrigued about the time of leaving as well and the time of entering, this is an absorbing study on a fascinating man.. I understand he died suddenly of a heart attack at home in Spain putting the finishing touches to his AMPED opus and indeed did a fb video a couple of days before which is super-poignant to watch.
    He was a guide for me with books and articles alongside my Elemental Qigong training, then became a mentor and friend, always super respectful and playfully kind. A frequent guest on my Chi Time TV and Radio shows, he encouraged me to be my Qi and help others too, he still does, as in the spiritual dimension his humour and support are as lively as ever, I am not the only one to report this..!
    I recall an event we co-presented in Bournemouth in 2016 called the Power of Kindness as a form of Self Defence, genius title and potent workshop for all who attended. I pondered how my journey with him had brought me to this point and realised is is the Tao in full flow given a chance to be in right alignment with another kindred soul, bless him all the Way.

    Survived by his 3 lads, who I met at his memorial, his legacy continues on the barefootdoctorworld website where they are shining more light and deep breath into his Taoist wisdom and wit to assist whomever resonates and wishes to find healing within.
    Of course I am sad he is gone physically, but with all his Taoist training he was prepared for this and often suggested we each become friends with our own demise, seeing it as a portal for the next adventure and appreciating the miracle of our current existence.
    Whether he returns to the earthly plain or not remains to be seen, right now he’s as omnipotent as he can be, assisting many of us to continue to up level our personal YinYang life-dance for as long as we are here.

  • Paul April 15, 2023, 1:30 pm

    Met BD around 2004 and did his first two tai chi seminars on a hillside in Pembrokeshire. He told me he was trying to make his work more palatable to the public by moving away from the sorcery and individualism angle (that interested me) towards something else. In a video lecture that was posted a year or two before he died (can’t recall the link) he mentions that a doctor had told him he may have a short time to live, and he seemed to take this seriously and be at ease with it. In any case, I feel that his ill health cannot have come as a shock or a surprise, but was more likely a chronic condition. I don’t think it was cancer-related; more something to do with heart trouble and possibly an inherited condition.

  • Lo January 25, 2024, 3:37 pm

    One of the comments made in this thread – someone deciding against studying Stephen’s Qigong methods because his death at an young age so obvs his methods do not work – would of had made him chuckle ,i can just visualise it- he would of have found it beyond amusing and funny.
    He was my across the road neighbour in NW London for some years and we became friends. He was such a special soul and gifted healer. I feel fortunate that our paths crossed. Forever missed. 💫

  • Richard February 28, 2024, 7:44 pm

    What Sign was in his 6th House = Health Predispositions ?
    – each Sign rules a particular part of the Body and it’s associated Organs…

    Did he understand Astrology ?

    Perhaps he was just ignoring his health ?
    Couldn’t resolve his issues…?

    I was really surprised to hear of his death, considering his understanding of Traditional Chinese Medicine TCM , Daoism, etc…

    Thank you for your interesting article 🙏

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