Why is a square?


It seems like a perfectly obvious question, but it’s one that most astrologers seldom think to ask, not least, I suspect, because there are certain unquestioned assumptions in astrology as much as in any other field of study: and thus a square is simply a square because it’s a square!

This logic has always troubled me, most especially because it is based upon no logic whatever. Rather it is a received wisdom whose underlying tenets appear too fundamental to challenge. Such is dogma, and dogma is rarely useful.

We ought to always understand the raison d’être of these first principles, even if only to prove their veracity. I have explored a few understandings about the mechanics of aspects, mostly they are based upon divisions of the circle and fundamentals of numerology (although that to me seems a little chicken and egg: which came first, numerology or the division of the ecliptic?) There seems little doubt in my thinking when I have pondered the reality of aspects however: it is mostly derived from the nature of the signs themselves, modified by proximity to an equal division of the sphere.

Why should this be? A Sun and Moon blend does not need to be in Ptolemaic opposition for it to manifest the tendency to awkwardness – most especially in interaction with others – that is the hallmark of a full moon birth so long as the signs are opposite. Mars in Aries will not sit comfortably in the broad apprehension of life while Venus is in Capricorn, even if the two are not squared. The orb creates immediacy, not reality. Both Venus and Mars must be expressed somehow, and they are not compatible in these signs, so whilst they cannot (as tradition would have it) “see each other” by aspect, they certainly will not be mutually supporting as they would if both were in fire and out of orb of the trine.

To a large extent, it is entirely academic to even think in this specific way, but it ought to be obvious that regardless of aspect a planet in flighty, cursory Gemini will not mix comfortably with a planet in detail-focused, thorough Virgo; the two signs have little in common (and therein lies the challenge of the square).

So, the intrinsic nature of the signs is the keystone of aspect analysis regardless of orb or anything else. Orbs in themselves are of course important, and the closer two powers are configured, the more unquestioned and innate an aspect is likely to appear, most especially in subjective terms. That is to say that a square of less than 2 degrees of arc is very often a blind spot for the native, whereas a wider square will likely be a condition of which they have more awareness. Tight aspects are innate and unquestioned, loose ones are less integrated and impinge more upon consciousness as a result.

All of which really begs the question (and it’s a good one): what about out of sign aspects? At this juncture, it might be useful to consider an example:

00) Florence, Italy

Maurizio Gucci, fashion designer. 26 Sept 1948 01:10 (EET -2:00) Florence, Italy

Maurizio Gucci, one time head of the world famous Italian fashion house evinced an out of sign square between Sun in Libra and Moon in Gemini, with a separation of just 3°06′. Classically, a Sun – Moon square represents inner discontent due to the instincts being incompatible with the ideal self, but in an out-of-sign square such as this, the intrinsic nature of Gemini and Libra is inherently complementary, so the tension of the square would not in any way have been so evident as with Cancer and Libra (emotional and nonchalant) or Gemini and Virgo (easy-going and particular), instead with this combination we have a nonchalant and easy-going admixture: and yet the two are squared.

Bill Tierney, in the excellent Dynamics of Aspect Analysis (which I no longer own, although did until very recently) discusses this exact phenomenon, (unfortunately I cannot quote directly) and his conclusion suggests that aspects out of sign are fundamentally altered in quality and not nearly so compulsive. Thus, they appear to assume something of the quality of a wider-arc aspect.

Gucci however, did evince one of the more classic tensions of a Sun – Moon square: namely marital tension, and that writ very large. Shortly after selling his stake in the family empire for $170 million, he was gunned down by a contract killer hired by his wife. Other insights support this potential: Venus conjunct Pluto (fanatic love) in the 2nd house of wealth, peregrine Neptune in Libra and the 4th suggests powerfully confused home conditions whereas the Mars – Pluto square across those most uncompromising and remorseless of potentials: Scorpio to Leo is never going to be easy to reconcile.

Gucci’s wife was notoriously narcissitic, she once said “I’d rather cry in a Rolls Royce than laugh on a bicycle,” and it was after her husband determined to divorce her that she hatched her evil plot.

For Maurizio though, the ruler of the 8th is Uranus (thus sudden, unexpected) and conjunct Moon (the wife), which tells something of the end of things, but even more pertinent is the midpoint picture of Ur=Ma/Pl. The Mars – Pluto square across the fixed Leo – Scorpio potential is already powerfully forceful and difficult, and with Uranus at the midpoint at less than a minute of arc the interpretation becomes especially intriguing: cruelty, violence, brutality – sudden disasters or calamities of great consequence. In medical astrology, the midpoint of the tightest square: especially one involving Pluto is nearly always profoundly telling.

Of course, it works both ways, a trine that is out of sign is not nearly so innate and accessible as one that is in its element, so more effort is required to facilitate the easy exchange of energy normally associated with the aspect as might be expected with two planets in mutually incompatible signs.

For the astrologer, it makes interpretation somewhat difficult, because there is a contradictory influence at work in out of sign aspects. The out of sign opposition has something of the quincunx to consider, thus a tendency to dissatisfaction that perhaps alters the quality of the traditional opposition. The square might be eased, the trine weakened, of the major aspects, only the conjunction might be considered assisted by the tendency to the semi-sextile, although it without doubt lessens the intimacy and innateness of the usual blend.

Superhuman Force: the Mars – Pluto Contact

The Mars Pluto contact is characterised by Ebertin as ‘Superhuman Force’. It is an entirely apt description, since one of the key understandings of Hadean energy is that, like the atomic power it rules, it creates an incredible reservoir of hidden power. Nuclear fusion is carried on in the deepest recesses of the power station, volcanic process occurs in the deepest subterranean realms and when either finds its way out, devastation and destruction inevitably results; this is a force that ought not see the light of day.

Harnessed properly and handled with respect and caution though nuclear energy can provide enormous benefits. Similarly, a volcanic eruption can induce a sense of wonder and local inhabitants can be moved to a position of safety beforehand, providing the seismologists have done their work. The key observation though is that Plutonic force needs very careful handling and should be handled respectfully, and nowhere is this more in evidence than where it provides the motive power for Martian energy, which is already hot enough all on its own.

Today then, I wish to explore an intriguing insight, that while it is ostensibly concerned with Mars and Pluto in the astrology, gives perhaps an even starker insight into the fundamental quality of aspects than the contact between these potentially volatile planetary powers alone. Any Mars – Pluto contact contains an intimation of superhuman force, regardless of its quality and the square need be no more difficult than the trine in the long term. Squares and oppositions require transformation due to their abrupt and limiting influence on the life; trines and sextiles by contrast are able to bump along much more comfortably and this is why a trine can so easily devolve into something a little decadent, or even sleazy in some cases. Let us consider some examples.


All of these individuals evince a Mars-Pluto contact in their astrology albeit of a differing arc; in every case Pluto is in the sign of Virgo. Consider the nature of the different aspects first. The square creates an inner drive or tension which manifests out of consciousness as an abrupt, tense and somewhat edgy impetus. The opposition is a tendency to disown our dissonant characteristics and transfer them onto others and often manifests as interpersonal discord or relationship dysfunction. The trine by contrast creates ease and subjective enjoyment and the native can leverage the frictionless exchange of energies between the planets. The conjunction is the most innate and intrinsic form of contact, it becomes a more fundamental and integral facet of personality than any other type of contact.

Thus, Jack Black first of all who with Mars in wild, free-roaming Sagittarius evinces the square to Pluto in Virgo. Here the superhuman force is felt as a great inner tension that makes the energy rather abrupt, tense and potentially explosive. Mars forms the apex of a tee-square from Moon in Pisces opposing Pluto. Moon square Mars is classically disputatious and abrupt, and can manifest as a rather headstrong tendency to rashness. Add to this the force of Mars – Pluto and the abruptness of the square aspect and immediately it is possible to see how Jack is metamorphosed from a usually reserved and potentially timid Virgo into a raging rock monster. And, the fact is, you can see Mars square Pluto in his eyes.

Rob Lowe by contrast will not evince the same forceful tendency simply because the opposition does not internalise like the square: in direct contrast in fact, it externalises instead. Lowe’s manner is almost opposite to that of Jack Black’s, none of the edgy, abrupt energy is in evidence, in fact, he seems to be, by contrast, almost soporifically meek and non-confrontational. This is because the tension and force of Mars Pluto is transferred onto others, so Lowe may consider others to be brutal, forceful and cruel without claiming any of those difficult qualities for himself, however, he will probably fool nobody except himself, because none of us can ever fully outsource our oppositions and those who know him well might consider him to be ruthlessly ambitious, which is certainly one of the most common difficult manifestations of this placement. Another classic interpretation of Mars/Pluto is concerned with sexual drive and vigour, and the opposition could well farm out those darker biological drives inappropriately. In 1988, Lowe was involved in a sex scandal over a videotape of him having sex with two females, one of whom was sixteen, in Atlanta while attending the 1988 Democratic National Convention. Lowe has asserted that he did not know that the second girl was underage, and it was confirmed that the two had met at a bar, which the girl entered by lying about her age. Another part of the same tape was leaked at the time, showing Lowe, a young American model named Jennifer, and Justin Morris having a ménage à trois in a hotel room in Paris. This part of the original tape was sold as one of the first commercially available celebrity sex tapes, damaging his public image.He later entered a rehabilitation clinic for alcohol and sex addiction. Lowe is currently involved in several ongoing legal disputes with three former nannies claiming sexual harassment. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the various situations, there is no denying the potential for use of force (Pluto) in sexual matters (Mars) being used inappropriately against others (opposition). It is equally possible however, that he is (as he claims) the victim of inappropriate sexual accusations himself, for the purpose of obtaining financial rewards. Mars – Pluto can seek advancement without much concern for the moralities.

Ben Stiller enjoys the Mars Pluto trine, which at its best bestows great self-confidence and tireless ambition, the ability to work without rest in order to achieve one’s objectives. With Mars in the 7th and exalted in Capricorn he no doubt displays an easy ability to relate with a measure of intensity within close personal relationships and he has certainly enjoyed a generally uncomplicated married life to date with Christine Taylor, with whom he co-starred in the movie Dodgeball.

For Kevin Spacey, the conjunction plays out in a much more integrated manner as a key component of personality. Mars is of course a personal planet, so it will be expressed at the very core of being whereas Pluto, impersonal and distant, simply cannot be unless it is in some sense blended into some more intrinsic facet of the person. The conjunction performs this exact function in a manner that is entirely more complete and unquestioned than any of the other aspect possibilities. Mars in Virgo gives a curiously asexual quality to the persona, a tendency which is only given a strangely compulsive quality by the proximity of Pluto, here is someone that is methodical and pays attention to detail and has an ability to work on the small-stuff all day long without tiring or losing focus.


Consider briefly these equivalent case studies in female astrology, where Mars changes its focus subtly. Davina McCall evinces the edgy and ambitious quality of the contact and certainly there is an abrupt and decidedly tense facet to her nature that is immediately evident. For Cindy Crawford the opposition is found across the MC/IC with Mars on the Midheaven and conjunct Saturn, both in dreamy Pisces. The neatening and intense polarity of Pluto in Virgo however, is unmistakable. Shannen Doherty who enjoys the trine has a reputation for being ruthlessly ambitious and has experienced considerable turbulence in her personal relationships, while Teri Hatcher embodies the quality of Mars-Pluto in Virgo forming a stellium with Uranus all of which tightly squares her Sun in Sagittarius in the 9th giving enormous drive to realise her ambitions.

Any aspect, crucially, between Mars and Pluto therefore gives enormous energy, drive and ambition, the nature of the aspect will only in truth modify the manner in which it manifests.

More Marital Breakdown

dr02I would like to very briefly pursue another theme from the previous post and explore a little further some of the implications found within the astrology of Denise Richards, the (now) ex-wife of Charlie Sheen. The couple are still involved in an acrimonious custody dispute over their two children. Back in May Celebrity Justice ran with this story:

Denise Richards is making her kids reality television stars and her fuming ex-husband Charlie Sheen is powerless to stop her. Daughters, Lola, 2, and Sam, 3, are headed for Hollywood, as Denise is making the rounds on the nation’s talk show circuit this week promoting a new reality show about her home life called “Denise Richards: It’s Complicated.” But what this star is also highlighting is her ruthless decision to showcase her two toddlers on television in an attempt to jumpstart her career.

What transpires from the remainder of this story is yet more sordid and rather unsavoury grist for the vicarious mill of celebrity-worship, the parry and riposte of two people behaving with considerably less class than their children, but that aside, no tale of separation would be complete without an exploration of both participants’ astrologies. Denise Richards’ situation is immeasurably complicated most especially in the matter of marriage and divorce by lack of a birth time, without a descendant much invaluable insight is lost, although there are a few interesting configurations which will have a bearing nonetheless.

Denise Richards, actress. 17 Feb 1972, time unknown.

Denise Richards, actress. 17 Feb 1972, time unknown.

  1. Mercury is Cazimi, which in Aquarius gives  a slightly offbeat and quirkily exalted manner of communication, this alone ought to make Richards very intriguing to know, but the square to Saturn is undoubtedly difficult. The impression that she gives of being free and unfettered is likely to jar incongruously by a no-doubt materialistic streak and any Sun-Saturn stress very often manifests as a tendency to difficult separations, undoubtedly a factor in the marriage breakdown.
  2. While Charlie Sheen has a difficult Sun-Pluto opposition, Richards is very much the feminine counterpart with Moon opposition Pluto. Here then is someone that is prone to jealousy and emotional upset, Pluto sits on the Aries Point of Libra too, thus a possibility of fame or renown through marriage which essentially jars with a rather aggressive instinctive nature and a tendency to mania. She probably goes off-reservation when she starts to feel insecure or uncomfortable as a result making disputes more serious than they might otherwise need be.
  3. Uranus is Ptolemaically peregrine in Libra. This need not be an especial difficulty, although it can create shocks and upsets in close partnerships if the rest of the chart shows a tendency to extremes which is certainly in evidence here. Usually there are somewhat peculiar ideas about marriage and a need to be given a great deal of consideration, otherwise trouble results, irritability can be a problem too. The quindeciles to Moon and Mars will only add compulsion and stress, however the key observation is the inclination to form partnerships with unusual individuals.
  4. Tee-squared Jupiter in dour Capricorn is a profoundly difficult placement suggesting a serious lack of joie-de-vivre, especially in earlier life. It creates a surfeit of potentially cold ambition and a great deal of stress, most especially because she will struggle to feel very optimistic or positive.
  5. Although not rendered, Venus is conjunct Chiron, an aspect which I wrote about recently on the excellent Jeff’s site Sasstrology thus: The conjunction will probably be felt most keenly as the “pain of love.” Perhaps our relationships cause us continual anxiety and uncertainty, or we feel insecure even when we know we should not really. Mostly, with the conjunction it creates an intense longing for love, but crucially, even when love is found, it does not feel secure enough. For this connection, it seems that no amount of love is ever enough. We feel others’ pain and unhappiness, too — especially in close personal relationships — and may tend to take ownership of it, and feel that it is a sign of wrongness in the partnership. We may try to heal those with whom we are in love as a means of avoiding the necessity to heal ourselves, and we might become quite difficult to love as a result. Both Kurt Cobain and Marilyn Monroe shared this aspect.
  6. Both Sun and Venus are detrimented but Venus is well aspected and forms a mutual reception with Mars which creates an excellent attractive influence in her nature and manner.

It is more than a little unfortunate that the birth-time is not known, but the overall ambience is still quite clear; here is a quirky and attractive personality that manifests a fair degree of stress and difficulty within relationships. There is also a definite potential for extreme emotional states which is certainly exacerbated by an almost complete lack of water, which always creates a tendency to overreact to conflict due to an inability to empathise; such people very often cannot appreciate the hurt they cause or the consequences of their venom.

The Chiron-Pluto contact: all the world’s pain

Walt Whitman and Henry Thoreau

Walt Whitman and Henry Thoreau

Today I wish to look in some detail at the two greatest Americans that ever lived. Of course, I make no objective claim on these personages’ behalves, only one that, for my own part, rings profoundly true. I would happily include a close run third placing for that most gently predisposed of Presidents (Jed Bartlett aside) Abraham Lincoln, however, even his star was eclipsed, in my most humble opinion by those of Henry David Thoreau, and his contemporary, the poet Walt Whitman. Contemporaneousness for the astrologer absolutely contains a hint of promise, because immediately we begin to wonder if there is not some commonality to the nativity of each; of course there is, but then too, there is this same equality across a vast swathe of humanity within each era of history. In the case of Whitman and Thoreau however, the conjunction of Pluto with Chiron in dreamy, poetic Pisces is certainly insightful, in my view, it is the keystone of their respective brilliance, although other, and completely dissociated factors have coloured that impetus to make it appear almost superfluous.

Before I discuss the nativities in any depth at all, I should like to briefly examine the chronology of Pluto Chiron conjunctions. They, of course, are rare, and certainly they produce rare individuals with an extremely complex inner life, which will need to be expressed at some level of the psyche. John Lennon and Bob Dylan shared the aspect, as will any child born in the latter part of 1999 and early 2000. Thus, in the last 200 years there have been only 4 significant periods of contact, (Chiron has a 50 year orbital period), between 1817 and 1820, 1882 and 1884, 1940 and 1941, and 1999 and 2000, although contacts were not necessarily constant throughout even those periods. The Chiron Pluto conjunction is uncommon, and undoubtedly with good reason, it requires a differently motivated soul to carry it well. I personally have the same contact, not too critically, except by opposition; Pluto, I find does not care particularly for the aspect style, he over-powers (as very distinctly opposed to overpowers) whatever he touches.

40) Huntington Bay, NY, USA

Walt Whitman, Poet. 31 May 1819 01:45 LMT (+04:53:40) Huntington Bay, NY, USA

Whitman’s astrology makes an almost sublime adjunct to his poetry, if you read both together the synergy is astonishing. Look firstly at the self-contained circuit of easy power in the grand trine from Mars, in dignity by sign and house, to Uranus and Neptune and then Moon in dramatic Leo, and she, in the 6th imparts a certain creativity to everyday matters in Virgo’s house. Venus in her own sign too seems very content and Sun, peregrinated in Gemini, though quindecile to Uranus, delights in being different, in individuating through being an observer and finding the sublime in the trivial insight. And we haven’t even mentioned Chiron Pluto yet, which has another subtext when configured so closely with Saturn, it’s Ebertin’s ‘hard labour’ again, but this time, it’s an expression of pain too, and what better way to exorcise it in the 12th than through the medium of poetry?

Peregrine Sun makes a thirst for significance, once awakened, and Pluto has much the same desire, but his is  a dark and more insidious power, in the 12th too it becomes a near compulsion and Mars is astoundingly strong and easy here and in my opinion it is easily identified within his poetry. Consider this:

From Pent Up Aching Rivers
From pent-up aching rivers,
From that of myself without which I were nothing,
From what I am determin’d to make illustrious, even if I stand sole
among men,
From my own voice resonant, singing the phallus,
Singing the song of procreation,
Singing the need of superb children and therein superb grown people,
Singing the muscular urge and the blending,
Singing the bedfellow’s song, (O resistless yearning!
O for any and each the body correlative attracting!
O for you whoever you are your correlative body! O it, more than all
else, you delighting!)
From the hungry gnaw that eats me night and day,
From native moments, from bashful pains, singing them,
Seeking something yet unfound though I have diligently sought it
many a long year,
Singing the true song of the soul fitful at random,
Renascent with grossest Nature or among animals,
Of that, of them and what goes with them my poems informing,
Of the smell of apples and lemons, of the pairing of birds,
Of the wet of woods, of the lapping of waves,
Of the mad pushes of waves upon the land, I them chanting,
The overture lightly sounding, the strain anticipating,
The welcome nearness, the sight of the perfect body,
The swimmer swimming naked in the bath, or motionless on his back
lying and floating,
The female form approaching, I pensive, love-flesh tremulous aching,
The divine list for myself or you or for any one making,
The face, the limbs, the index from head to foot, and what it arouses,
The mystic deliria, the madness amorous, the utter abandonment,
(Hark close and still what I now whisper to you,
I love you, O you entirely possess me,
O that you and I escape from the rest and go utterly off, free and lawless,
Two hawks in the air, two fishes swimming in the sea not more
lawless than we;)
The furious storm through me careering, I passionately trembling.
The oath of the inseparableness of two together, of the woman that
loves me and whom I love more than my life, that oath swearing,
(O I willingly stake all for you,
O let me be lost if it must be so!
O you and I! what is it to us what the rest do or think?
What is all else to us? only that we enjoy each other and exhaust
each other if it must be so;)
From the master, the pilot I yield the vessel to,
The general commanding me, commanding all, from him permission taking,
From time the programme hastening, (I have loiter’d too long as it is,)
From sex, from the warp and from the woof,
From privacy, from frequent repinings alone,
From plenty of persons near and yet the right person not near,
From the soft sliding of hands over me and thrusting of fingers
through my hair and beard,
From the long sustain’d kiss upon the mouth or bosom,
From the close pressure that makes me or any man drunk, fainting
with excess,
From what the divine husband knows, from the work of fatherhood,
From exultation, victory and relief, from the bedfellow’s embrace in
the night,
From the act-poems of eyes, hands, hips and bosoms,
From the cling of the trembling arm,
From the bending curve and the clinch,
From side by side the pliant coverlet off-throwing,
From the one so unwilling to have me leave, and me just as unwilling
to leave,
(Yet a moment O tender waiter, and I return,)
From the hour of shining stars and dropping dews,
From the night a moment I emerging flitting out,
Celebrate you act divine and you children prepared for,
And you stalwart loins.

Here then is Mars rejoicing, with a little promise from Venus in sensual Taurus for good measure. There is more than a little of both Uranus (delighting in the perverse) and Neptune (poetry) in free-ranging, unbashful and convention-defying Sagittarius here as well. The theme becomes especially interesting however when you consider the facts of Whitman’s life. Look at the Midheaven, whose ruler, Saturn is configured so crushingly with Pluto and Chiron in the 12th. The vocation is simply hard work, painful and the cause of ongoing hardship, upset and self-undoing too. Whitman struggled his whole life for money, eventually after stints as a journalist, teacher, volunteer nurse and newspaper publisher, he found work in the department of Indian Affairs as a civil servant but was put out of a job by the then Secretary of State, James Harlan who believed that Whitman’s great work “Leaves of Grass” was a work of deep immorality. This simple anecdote resonates so perfectly with the ruler’s conjunction of Saturn with Pluto and Chiron in the 12th, Saturn rules moral judgements, Pluto personages of great power and the 12th both poetry and material decline; a better example could hardly be conceived.

The key observation though is to be found in the thread of profound beauty that runs through his entire body of work. It is so concerned with the most hesitantly sublime expressions of the love of nature and the simple joy of human relationships, it has a near existential and Zen quality, indeed, Whitman is considered almost to be the first American Zen poet, and with good reason, his words are intensely compassionate, he felt the depth of the world, and found, through the 12th house  a means to finally express it.

36) MA, USA

Henry Thoreau, Philosopher(?) 12 Jul 1817 21:00 (LMT +4:44:36) MA, USA

Thoreau’s astrology, as with his life, runs in a very different vein from that of Whitman, although – and here is the nub – who could say, that have read both Walden and Leaves of Grass – that they did not share the most fundamental of expressive qualities? Thoreau was at heart a compassionate non-conformist and his philosophy influenced both Gandhi and Martin Luther King in later generations. His major work, Walden recounted the experience of living a life of near Buddhist simplicity after he built a cabin on land owned by that other great contemporary liberal thinker Ralph Waldo-Emerson. Thoreau believed that civil disobedience was the duty of every American and can be credited in large part with an institution which endures to this day, Homeland Security notwithstanding.

His astrology is an entirely more difficult affair. Tee-squares to Saturn rising and the conjunction of Chiron-Pluto abound with a common Venusian thread; Thoreau never found love and it is supposed that he may well (unlike Whitman) have died a virgin. His life was short, although he expired, it is recounted, almost gratefully, at the age of just 44. In one measure only did Thoreau’s quality of life eclipse Whitman’s, and if you look to the Midheaven, ruled by Jupiter and not Saturn, it is easy to see how Thoreau’s vocation was so much more assisted. There was not the Capricornian sense of struggle and the necessity to surmount obstacles, indeed, Thoreau lived nearly without a care by comparison; whilst his needs were sublimely simple (you can get a flavour of this if you read the chapter “Economy” in Walden) he nevertheless received sufficient charity from Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorn and many other notables of that time, to allow him a distinct measure of freedom from toil.

But once again there is this sense of the deepest sensitivity of the man; a sensitivity so profound and underpinning that it colours the entire persona at some fathomless substrate of being. It is this same joy and rapture in the simple rhythms and harmonies of nature that he found while living alone in the forest that is mirrored in Whitman’s odes to the earthly domain. This is the key insight, and remember here that the Chiron Pluto contact is in the rapturous, unworldly sign of Pisces, poetic to the core, there cannot be much impetus to worldly ambition here, but there is an overwhelming Chirotic power and a need to express such a depth of compassion that it beggars understanding.

(And is it any surprise that John Lennon shared this exact aspect?)

Trines vs. Squares, Case Studies

The fact that today I don’t get a single hard transit, Venus conjunct Uranus woke me at 8:04 this morning and she crosses my Ascendant around lunchtime (and I am looking good today, if I say so myself), has got me in the way of thinking about the quality of aspect experience in the nativity. The key observation is that a chart that evinces a lack of easy aspects will be fundamentally different in quality and tone to one that contains an abundance of ease regardless of any other factor in the entire astrology. It transcends, if you like, the more specific considerations of element, triplicity, sign and house and ought to be noted where found as “important!” I wrote broadly on this principle in a previous article which can be found here.

I have conducted a small study of my files and I can now provide some specific examples which will hopefully illustrate the principle and clarify the key quality of the insight. The first observation of significance is that charts of noteworthy individuals with a complete absence of easy aspects outnumber those lacking hard aspects almost completely, in fact I could find only 4 charts in more than 2000 that contained no squares or oppositions. This ought not be the greatest surprise in theory, since the very vast majority of charts contain a fairly broad mix of hard and easy contacts, speaking only statistically that ought to be the case, but by contrast, the number of charts containing no, or nearly no easy aspects is quite disproportionately long. Immediately an insight is gleaned about drive and ambition; these are created out of the square aspect more or less exclusively, although conjunctions to Mars or Pluto often evince something of the nature of a natural square.

Technical note: In this study I tend to only consider the trine, square and opposition alone. A sextile requires effort to activate and is not innate in the same manner as the division by 2, 3 and 4, thus I would consider a chart lacking trines and with just one or two sextiles to be exclusively difficult.

Easy Charts.

First then, the 4 cases I could find of charts that contained only easy aspects, by which I mean a total absence of squares and oppositions. Pauline Collins (a British sitcom actress), Rollie Fingers (a baseball star), Daniel Wesson (co-founder of the Smith and Wesson firearms manufacturer) and F. Scott Fitzgerald, are the only examples of even moderate note that I could find. Fitzgerald is easily the most noteworthy among these four so we will look briefly at his astrology here.

22) St. Paul Minn. USA

F. Scott Fitzgerald, writer. 24 Sept 1896 15:30 (+6:12:22) St. Paul Minn. USA

A chart with this much ease of course ought to be more of a handicap than an outright boon, but you should note almost right away that Sun and Pluto are both peregrinated, whilst Saturn and Uranus form a peregrine island in Scorpio and the 9th house. This is almost certainly the source of his drive to suceed, and his greatest work, The Great Gatsby is really a novel about the experiential dissonance of the protagonist who exalts the charming social conventions (Sun in Libra) of New York society in the 1920’s but experiences a real discomfort with the rampant materialism that underpins it (8th house). The rest of Fitzgerald’s life runs much more in the vaguely dissolute groove promised by a lack of tension in the nativity. He went to Princeton, failed to complete his studies, was considered a “mediocre student” and rather flaccidly went about his affairs, making easy associations with the likes of Ernest Hemingway along the way. His love life was stuttering and somewhat lacking in urgency, and he even managed to arouse a rather generalised resentment from his contemporaries, including Hemingway who referred to Fitzgerald latterly as an “archetypal, ruined American writer”. The experience of this broad sweep of aspects then is one of a rather unfocused, random and altogether too unfussy approach to the whole arena of life and there is always a sense that progress is made as much, if not more, through luck and blind chance than through any concerted effort or desire. That then, is the unexpurgated trine experience, and without peregrination, I do not doubt for one moment that even the great F. Scott Fitzgerald would have been simply incapable of rising above abject mediocrity in any facet of his life. The fuel is simply absent.

Hard charts.

Here, conversely there is a wealth of material to choose from and if I were prepared to include charts evincing even a single easy aspect the list would grow exponentially. The Gemini Sun and implacably peregrinated Mercury in Taurus blend of Clint Eastwood and the dreamily poised peregrinated Mercury in Scorpio of Grace Kelly are examples of this latter type. Here then is the list of those charts from my records containing not a single trine:

Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull)
Alexander Graham Bell
Cliff Burton (Metallica)
Henri Cartier Bresson
Barbara Cartland
Walt Disney
Jodie Foster
Rodney King
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Charles Manson
William Morris
Guy Pearce
Will Smith
Bruce Springsteen

Several of these cases are extremely interesting in their own right and I have explored various facets of their respective astrologies in previous articles: Cliff Burton, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Guy Pearce (whose chart is a facsimile of my own, he is a few hours older than I and born just 30 miles from me too) and of course, Will Smith, who is the archetypal peregrinated Moon in Scorpio role-model, in this astrologer’s view.

For the purpose of this article I would like to consider two further extremely interesting cases; those of Jodie Foster and Bruce Springsteen, both of whom share a common quality of A-list celebrity status, a far cry from the rather meagre fame of those in the easy grouping.

00) Los Angeles CA USA

Jodie Foster, actress: 19 Nov 1962 08:14 PST (+08:00) Los Angeles CA USA

You will note that the only sextile is almost entirely generational with Neptune and Pluto neither angular, not overly pronounced in the context of the overall nativity. Pluto is pronounced however through its lordship over Sun in Scorpio, the focal point of a rather unconvincing tee-square from Mo/Ur opp. Ju. Moon conjunct Uranus in Virgo creates a real possibility of emotional dissatisfaction, a feeling of being different but the opposition to Jupiter in the 3rd creates real stress in her relationships whenever she tries to express it. The result of that is vocal tension, a sense of crackling restraint in the self-expression when it is squeezed into ultra-controlling Sun in Scorpio. Just listen to her talk and you will immediately feel that quality, it is unmistakable. You can palpably sense the fizzing, electrical quality of Uranus being strained out through the Sun. Of perhaps even more import for the arc of her life and career is peregrinated Saturn in Aquarius, where he is undoubtedly very comfortable; here Saturn is idealistic with regard to material matters, she therefore has real power to realise assets in her life, a quality she shares exactly with Michael Caine. The overall ambience of the nativity therefore is perfectly in keeping with a lack of ease; even if life is objectively seen to be quite comfortable and successful, the lack of trines individual cannot rest on his or her laurels and must continue to strive for a resolution to that inner sense of tension.

00) Freehold NJ USA

Bruce Springsteen, musician 23 Sep 1949 22:50 (+04:00) Freehold NJ USA

Bruce Springsteen is another unique case, since his chart evinces not only a lack of trines but a remarkable lack of oppositions too. There are other charts that show no opposition, those of Paul McCartney, Orson Welles and Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper for example, however, Springsteen’s chart is one of the very few that contains only squares. A lack of oppositions is in general an indicator of an uncomfortable tendency to not seek external validation. This is the same end result as a grand trine in truth, however the grand trine creates no friction, it is an entirely comfortable self-absorption; the lack of opposition by contrast merely generates isolation. The native, unable to moderate behaviour through the mirror of interaction simply annoys others until they drift away, frustrated and no doubt desirous of easier company. This, I would think in Springsteen’s case will just add to the angsty quality of the trineless nativity and drive him onward in his quest for self-acceptance and equanimity. Sun on the Aries Point of Libra creates an opportunity for fame too, but the real drive in his life is found in the Venus Mars square, a dissatisfaction with love and, with Venus in Scorpio, an inability to differentiate between sex and the more rarefied sentiments. Uranus rising in Cancer, ruling the vocation and squaring Sun creates a tension and need to express independent views on the homeland and this is a real feature of his songwriting of course. Jupiter is especially poorly placed, detrimented, squared to the Lord of the Geniture and in Pluto’s house, but it does create a real drive too to realise power in the life, and material concerns are part of that impetus with Capricorn configured. Tense, tense, tense: poor Bruce, he might never get to sing it out of him.

The making of an astrologer: Reinhold Ebertin

Before I begin today’s discussion, I would just like to let everyone know that I have been through a very difficult few days dealing with some quite acute life difficulties, and even though I anticipated them (by transit, progression and arc), it did not in the event make them any easier to dispatch; Eris is hardly predictable in the astrology. I am therefore completely off schedule with all my usual obligations, so please bear with me for a short while as I regroup.

The great Reinhold Ebertin

The great Reinhold Ebertin

In the same way that most civilians have their favourite rock stars, sportsmen and women or writers, it is always insightful to me to understand which persons my fellow astrologers most admire, within the field. For myself I have the utmost respect for Noel Tyl, Donna Cunningham, Liz Greene and most especially, beyond all of these even: Reinhold Ebertin. No astrologer has, in my humble view, so advanced the study as this rather odd and unassuming man, who is as much a pioneer in the field of astrology as Einstein was in his, or Darwin, or any other great luminary of the acceptable face of human understanding.

I first read that bible of insight the CSI, (Combination of Stellar Influences) when I was 13 or 14, it was my grandfather’s copy and he bade me take especial care with it, because it was precious and important, so I knew even then that it was a work of significance, and to this day that judgement has been so often reinforced and underpinned that I do believe that if I could own only one astrological text, Ebertin’s magnum opus would be it. I have since read all his works that are translated into English. “The Influence of Pluto on Human Love Life” is also a very intriguing treatise and shows remarkable insight for such an early exploration on Hades’ themes. “The Cosmic Marriage” is possibly his most accessible work, and contains many useful insights into the indications for matrimonial and romantic aspirants. But it is the CSI which I refer to time and again, so much so in fact, that I can probably quote half of it and I cannot even see a Saturn Pluto contact without thinking “hard labour!” before I think of anything else!

Ebertin the man was born into a difficult time. He was separated from his mother at an early age, although he was reunited with her aged 21 whereupon she taught him much about the study; her own predilections were very much to do with love and affection and this may have been a profound impetus to Ebertin who seemed to gravitate toward such studies himself. He also made a name for himself during the rise of National Socialism, where dissonant ideologies were suppressed, forcing Ebertin – and that other great father of modern astrology, Carl Jung – to alter his approaches accordingly. He worked tirelessly on advancing the earlier studies of Alfred Witte, the founder of the Hamburg School and developing his own system of halfsum correspondences, many of which are profoundly relevant to the diagnosis of medical difficulty. I have an article delineating this astonishing diagnostic tool nearly ready for publication, and I have successfully identified the psychic cause of myriad complaints, from the niggardly to the near fatal using Ebertin’s excellent methods. Ebertin himself called his approach “cosmobiology” a word much underused in the modern study, because it summarises the meeting point of body, mind and soul that Ebertin was himself insistent ought to be the key genesis point of any astrological understanding. I have worked on that same premise ever since and it has not failed me yet.

00) Gorlitz, Germany

Reinhold Ebertin, Astrologer. 16 Feb 1901 04:45 (-01:00) Gorlitz, Germany

And so to the astrology itself. Take a moment to look at the shape of the nativity, allow it to move in you a little and you will start to feel that stress manifesting down into Pisces and the easy slingshot of energy up into the precision movement of Mars in Virgo. You can too feel the impetus to build and consolidate around that Capricorn ascendant. So what is most important here?

First, Venus is peregrine. Ebertin married aged 21 and purportedly experienced a consistently happy union, his wife was too an astrologer whom he met at an astrological conference and this tallies well with a love of the different, of unusual Uranian individuals. Even more pertinently Venus is at the halfsum of Sun and Moon, thus it denotes, according to Ebertin (from the CSI):

Harmonious coordination between spiritual and emotional as well as masculine and feminine dispositions. The power of attraction between the sexes, artistic interests – Friendship between lovers, a marriage of love, a harmonious marriage.”

So this seems clear, Venus is an important factor, it creates an intellectual type of love, a love of ideas, of thinking unconventionally and finding unique solutions, revolutionary solutions, to traditional conundrums, and this describes most aptly Ebertin’s impact on the field of astrological philosophy.

Beyond this, consider Chiron conjunct Jupiter rising in Capricorn. There is always a kind of early difficulty with Capricorn, the conditions are hard at the start and hard-work pays the dividend of eventual emancipation; thus times were hard for the Ebertin family between the wars in Germany, Chiron too speaks of a certain physical sensitivity when it applies to the Ascendant, Jupiter expands that sense also and creates a possibility of ever building compassion and healing ability. Jupiter rules publishing of course, and Chiron is the astrologer; so the mystery elucidates apace. Moon’s only significant aspect is a conjunction to Saturn in its own sign, she must be overpowered there and the separation from mother becomes clear too as a result. Consider that by Solar Arc Saturn applies to Moon sometime between the age of 5 and 6, almost certainly therefore the point of physical separation from her.

Tee squared Mercury tells an intriguing story, fed by implacable energies in the form of Uranus opposition Pluto, there is a need to express that astonishingly difficult transformative upset somehow. The opposition falls across the cusps of the 6th and the 12th, which suggests either an impetus to be suddenly hospitalised, imprisoned, or – most pertinently in an evolved case – to execute esoteric and secret work, as a daily habit. Ceres is on the astrologer’s degree of Pisces and is configured into this same pattern, so he could nurture himself through his astrological work and shining down upon all of this, adding some spark and electrical potency is Sun in Aquarius, also on the astrologer’s degree.

Now on the whole, this is not an easy chart even if Venus gives great power and a mutual reception between Mercury and Neptune gives a gift for communicating the immeasurable. Mercury is itself in a difficult spot in Pisces and it would be this mutual reception which exalted his power of relating so well. Neptune in the 6th speaks to spiritual work and habits while Uranus is itself on the 17-18 degree point of a mutable sign, another astrologer’s indication.

Mars in Virgo in the 8th speaks about an economy of movement, Ed Moses, the greatest 400m hurdler ever to have graced the track had peregrine Mars in Virgo and the 6th, so that gives you some idea of its ambience. I would have loved to have met this great man so I could see for myself how he actually moved and related. Economy, precision, efficiency and here in the 8th, the making of an analytic magus, a true researcher of the profound.

Truly, a great man.

The Making of an Astrologer

Would you be interested to see the nativity of a born astrologer? Somebody for whom the impetus to astrology would have been astonishingly powerful, irresistible even? When you look at the chart then, notice all of these indicators:

  1. Sun peregrinated in Virgo on one of the astrologer’s degrees. (11° 35′), an overwhelming need to shine in the arena of astrology.
  2. Midheaven ruler is Mercury, peregrine, in dignity, a fearsome intellect and potential for genius.
  3. Pluto is peregrine, and accidentally dignified, giving a keen and dominant insight into psychology and the underpinning paradigms of human life.
  4. Saturn is peregrine, and in Leo and the 8th creates an enormous fixity, drive and determination to be top of the pile in the chosen field.
  5. Neptune (this is getting silly now) is peregrine in Libra and the 10th house of vocation, thus spiritual matters and the concerns of relating to others are configured powerfully into the career.
  6. Moon rising in prophetic, breezy Sagittarius expands the capacity for relating, creates a cheerful and optimistic ambience to soften some of the peregrine intensity; the Lord of the Geniture, Jupiter too is tightly conjunct Venus in dignity, creating those “film-star mannerisms”, a winning personality and a disarming and easy going good-nature.
  7. All of the easy aspects in the astrology are to Uranus in the 7th house and Gemini, making the expression of ideas easy and intuitive and making profitable business collaborations possible with another Mercurial type. Uranus governs a significant element of the astrology of course, the power of sudden flashes of insight is his domain, and this empowers the astrologer’s gift of reading the glyph, as I like to call it.
  8. Urania, the astrologer’s asteroid is exactly square to Chiron, the asteroid that like the chiromancer named in his honour, practises the casting of horoscopes with his hands, then Chiron trines to Uranus, having these three astrologic powers configured together is meaningful in the context of the great art.
  9. Enticingly Lillith rises, giving the power to mesmerise and bewitch and most especially to express innately the divine feminine within; here is someone with personal power and feminine magnetism. Lillith trines Pluto too, thus the amplitude is ramped up considerably, possibly even uncomfortably on occasion.
  10. The only fly in the ointment, in my view, is a real discomfort with empathic energies as a total lack of water certainly signifies. Of course, subjectively, a lack of emotions is never felt, a lack of water person will never recognise their discomfort with handling the emotions, but nevertheless, an innate ability to reach out emotionally, without words is the hallmark of a strong water type and this is an ability that cannot be present without any water in the astrology.
  11. Finally, consider the general ambience of this astrology, Peregrine Sun in Virgo, Mercury too, in its sign, thus competence, efficiency and a truly penetrating mind expressed through a breezy, optimistic, outgoing (and everything is above the horizon too) emotional manner, a genius for relating, a dazzling sociability and just a little black magic for good measure. Truly, this is a person who has the world of astrology at their feet and a very well deserved reputation to boot.

It is of course, the nativity of Liz Greene, who has done more than probably any other individual to promote the study of psychological astrology since Dane Rudhyar. Interesting to note then that she conducts most of her seminars in tandem with Howard Sasportas (Uranus in Gemini on the 7th) and the emphasis of Pluto peregrine and accidentally dignified (psychology) with Sun peregrine at the Virgo astrologer’s degree, creates a fairly compelling association for the study of psychological astrology. Her book, “The Luminaries” is undoubtedly the best explorative work that deals with Sun and Moon in the astrology to date, and really, the world of astrology owes her an enormous debt.