The enchanting dance of duality in the zodiac.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Nature is comprised of dualities that seek to always balance each other.

So it is in astrology. The dance of opposing forces is very evident in the progression of the twelve zodiacal signs as well as in the dual nature of opposite signs.

Each sign is a reaction to the previous one: Aries is all bluster and impetuous energy; Taurus is the sign that balances all that impulsiveness by being cautious and patient. Taurus resists change; Gemini pursues it. Gemini is flighty and commitment avoidant; Cancer craves security and familiarity. Cancer wants to mother you and keep you safe at home; Leo asks you to have courage and go out into the world and perform. Leo believes all his of creative impulses must be good; but Virgo will only put her name on something that she has toiled and worried over in an effort to create perfection. Virgo needs solitude; Libra wilts when alone. Libra avoids conflict and exploring the darker impulse of his nature; Scorpio is relentless in his examination of his darker side (and everyone elses’ too.) Scorpio is secretive and guarded; Sagittarius is an open book. Saggy is an optimist and a dilettante; Capricorn is focused and tends to depression. Capricorn wants to create institutions and gain personal power within them; Aquarius wants to destroy the social norms and wants everyone to share the power equally. Aquarius is mystified by his feelings and values reason above all else; Pisces lives in his feelings and sees where reason is limited. Pisces would like to meditate all day; Aries can’t sit still. And so it goes.

Astrologers have written about these dynamics before and in much greater depth than I have here. But the point has been made about the duality we see everywhere in nature. Not only do the successive signs participate in this dance of duality, but so do opposite signs. Opposite signs are like two sides of the same coin and have common essence and remarkable similarities in addition to their obvious contrasts.

Aries and Libra are both cardinal, proactive signs and will fight for fairness.
The fixed signs of Taurus and Scorpio both value productivity and have great determination.
The mutable signs of Gemini and Sagittarius share restlessness, curiosity and mental energy.
Cancer and Capricorn are security conscious and capable of great focus.
Leo and Aquarius offer leadership especially with the welfare and education of youth and the future of mankind.
Virgo and Pisces ask us to examine our values, our methods and our motives to prepare us for a higher, better expression of ourselves by surrendering that which holds us back.


Killers and the capacity for violence.

Astrologers commonly correlate the capacity for physical violence with difficult aspects to Mars especially if the aspected planets fall in fixed signs and there are multiple difficult aspects. Pluto, Uranus and Saturn in hard aspect to Mars are what is most commonly thought to predispose one to physical violence, and this is certainly seems to be the case for violent outbursts that erupt suddenly out of anger or frustration. Yet, there are people who commit violent acts in very unemotional ways that are very premeditated. These violent tendencies do not always show up with hard aspects to Mars, Uranus or Pluto.

Is Bill Cosby’s premeditated acts of rape a form of violence? What about Andrea Yates who drowned her four children? Or Charles Manson who didn’t commit the act of murder himself but was able to get his followers to do it for him? Manson’s Mars has no difficult aspects: it is sextile the Sun and Venus, but he has Pluto and the Black Moon on his nodal axis and these two points square Uranus. Cosby also has the Black Moon on a node with Orcus and Venus on the opposite node. His nodes square his Moon/Neptune conjunction. His Mars does make an opposition to Uranus and both planets are in fixed signs. Andrea Yates also has the Black Moon and Orcus on the Nodes, but she also has Mars afflictions with Mars square Uranus and Pluto.

There was a woman here in Ohio a few years back who stalked a pregnant neighbor and murdered her, then performed c-section to get the infant for her own. (This woman’s chart is in the Astrodatabank at Astrodienst under the name of Michelle Bica.) She has no hard aspects to Mars either unless you include a wide conjunction to Orcus, but Pluto and the Moon are on her nodes and the Black Moon is in a t-square with Neptune and the Sun.

I’ve collected charts of many famous serial killers and many do not have hard Mars aspects. Ted Bundy does have Mars and Moon opposite Uranus but not in fixed signs. However, Orcus, the Moon’s nodes and the Black Moon are also in this aspect. His chart really stands out.

Here are a few other serial killers some of whose charts do not display unusually difficult Mars configurations but most have Orcus, the Black Moon and the Moon’s Nodes often tied together with some of the planets associated with violence.

– Peter Sutcliffe has no hard Mars aspects, but Orcus and Uranus fall on the nodes, and the Black Moon on the Ascendant.

-David Berkowitz: Orcus is in a wide conjunction (7 degrees) of Mars making an inconjunct to the Moon and Chiron and the Node.

– John Wayne Gacy: Mars has no aspects to outer planets only a square to Mercury unless you allow an 8 degree orb then it is conjunct Uranus. But Orcus squares the Nodes and Jupiter, the chart ruler. The Black Moon squares his Sun/Moon conjunction.

– Harold Shipman: Mars is conjunct Saturn opposite his Sun and Venus. Orcus is conjunct his Uranus and Moon and opposing the Black Moon.

-Dennis Rader: Mars makes one difficult aspect opposite Pluto.  The Black Moon, however squares his Moon and the nodal axis. Orcus makes an inconjunct to the Moon and the Moon’s nodes.

Another chart that really stands out, although I am not certain if his crimes were the result of spontaneous passion or more premeditated like the serial killers above, is that of Joran van der Sloot. He has a large stellium with Sun, Mars, Venus, Orcus and the Black Moon all making a square to Pluto. His nodes square the Moon and Neptune.

Then there is the chart that may be the most analyzed by astrologers in all of history, that of Adolph Hitler.  He does indeed have Mars in hard aspect to Saturn (squared) and Uranus (inconjunct), and Orcus makes a wide square (by 6 degrees) to his Mars and chart ruler (Venus). His nodes do not seem to be involved in any configuration of importance with Pluto, Orcus, the Black Moon or Saturn, but the nodes square Uranus. His Mars also makes an inconjunct to Uranus.  Although these indicators do point to some very tense internal conflicts, his chart does not immediately jump out as one that would indicate a capacity for premeditated violence on  such a grand scale.

It appears that Orcus and the Black Moon may be indicators when tied to Pluto, Mars, the Moon, or the Moon’s Nodes. I am just beginning to use parallels, contra-parallels, and out-of-bounds planets in my chart interpretation, so I may have some additional insights to post on this topic at a later date.

Also, we can be certain that there were other persons born at the same times and places as these killers who did not commit murder. This fact reminds us that astrology does not trump all other forces that act upon human beings, nor does it negate our free will. It is likely that these killers may have manifested completely different life experiences had they found the supportive emotional and spiritual relationships needed to help them express these powerful energies in healthier ways.

Rising signs and the birth of astrology.

I have often mused about how astrology might have first come to be. I imagine a very ancient women sitting under the stars and noticing a familiar red star rising in the east just after the Sun has set. It has been rising in that same place about the same time for several nights, but on this night there is another woman in their small village who gives birth just as the red star appears. A day or two later a second woman gives birth when the red star appears. Years later, everyone in the village has noticed the striking similarity in the personalities of these two children, and the stories told of the red star that appeared at the time of their births becomes meaningful. Soon the villagers regularly sit outside while a birth is at hand, and carefully record the stars that are visible at the times of each birth. The science of astrology is being birthed.

Both of the children in my fantasy had Mars, the red planet, close to their “Ascendant” or in their “Rising Sign”, the part of their birth horoscope that indicates the outer personae or personal style. Most astrologers find that the Rising sign, the Sun Sign and the Moon Sign are the three most important indicators of personality and temperament with the Rising Sign being the most outer or public face of the personality.

Most of us know our Sun Sign from the newspaper and monthly Sun Sign horoscopes, but we need to have an astrologer cast a chart for the exact moment and place of our birth to know our Rising Sign. If you have an astrologer cast your birth chart, what you will see is a circular map where the inner circle represents earth and the outer circle the heavens. A line through the center of these two circles is the horizon that divides day from night, and on the left end of this line is one of the zodiacal signs rising in the east. That is your Rising Sign or Ascendant. This sign tells us how you express all of the elements of your birth chart. It is the mask you wear, your style of expression. It also has a great influence of your physical appearance, especially visible in the shape of the head and face, and often one’s coloring too. For instance, Mars on the Ascendant almost always gives a strong red quality to the hair and complexion and a triangular face with a pointed chin. A Martian personality style will be assertive and outgoing, often impulsive and pushy.

But if Mars, is accompanied by another planet whose influence is opposite, these Martian physical features and the forceful personal style might not be as visible since they will be tempered by the accompanying planet. A good example of this is the chart of Sandra Bullock where Mars and Venus are paired up on this Ascendant point. She displays the Martian strength and assertiveness but it is tempered with Venusian grace and charm. Also, meaningful is that these planets on her Ascendant are in the sign of Gemini, so we see the charm expressed with great wit and an ease with public speaking.

Saturn in Sagittarius has started a serious debate about humor, free speech and religious tolerance.

When major planets change signs astrologers always expect a change in the mood of the collective, cultural trends, consumer preferences, and even flowering of certain endeavors or sectors of business, science or the arts that relate to the zodiacal sign.The slower the planet, the longer it stays in a sign and the deeper will be its influence on the zeitgeist. Saturn has just entered Sagittarius after a two and a half year passage in Scorpio. It is not one of the slowest planets, but nevertheless, this new transit will bring in some changes. Sagittarius is the sign of the philosopher and the sage, but it is a sign that really enjoys humor. I often see the sign of Sagittarius prominent in the charts of political satirists and humorists.  Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert both have Saggy prominent in their birth charts. Mark Twain, the American master of political humor, was a Sagittarius. Scorpio is a very serious and introspective sign, whereas Saggy has a lightness and a great desire for fun. Sagittarius also is associated with publishing, higher education, and the higher courts. Most Sagittarians are masters of satire, and nobody does sarcasm with as much bite as this Centaur. Saturn usually acts as a constricting or limiting influence, forcing us to be more responsible and more focused. And suddenly, we are having a global debate about the appropriateness or desirability of poking fun at religions we don’t particularly like, and if there might boundaries we should not cross with our sarcasm and satire. This seems like a very obvious manifestation of Saturn’s influence in this sign.

The Eighth House

The Eighth House: power dynamics, sex and the unconscious sense of security

Mundane and traditional astrology delegates the eighth house to the domain of sex, death, taxes and mortgages. More progressive astrologers have encouraged us to see it as the polar opposite of the second house of our values and our money, and thus, they tell us, it is the house of other people’s money. That explains the connection to inheritances and perhaps mortgages. But the connection to sex is not as obvious although it is logical, as I will explain.

Another important interpretation offered by the depth psychologists among us, is that this is the house of the “products” and “energies” produced by any partnership we undertake whether marital, business, or professional. It describes our approach to these treacherous places where we often take enormous risks in hopes of creating some emotional or financial security. It seems to me it is more about the energies created than the products. It also seems to me that it is more about our attitudes about these affairs and the psychological intelligence that comes from being totally and nakedly honest with ourselves.

As for being the house of death, it does give a symbolic picture of how we will actually leave this physical incarnation, but it also tells us how we can grow from all the “little deaths” we experience. In the Middle Ages sex was referred to as “the little death,” and it is obvious how this metaphor fits the sexual experience. But eighth house often has to do with the transformation and redemption that we experience when we go through very profound encounters and traumatic experiences.

This house is much about our impact on others and the positive or negative energies we foster though association. The first six houses are a map or developmental model of the unfoldment of a personal self and individual consciousness. We meet the other in house 7. Then a new developmental scheme begins, one of a social being who is an integral and connected part of a group, carrying us through to house 12.

I often have thought that astrologers were very wise to place sex and other people’s money together here, since as soon as one begins to exchange sexual favors or borrow or lend money, relationships change dramatically. They change in such a way that power dynamics become primary. The relationship is simply not the same; it has gone to another level where there are new expectations and contracts often become necessary to define terms and foster trust .

That this house is the natural house of the sign Scorpio is fitting. When we enter an intimate relationship where these types of transactions are happening, our deepest and most primal fears can arise. Betrayals could be costly to our heart, our psyche and our pocketbooks, and so it is wise to be guarded, circumspect and shrewd- doesn’t that sound like Scorpio?  Scorpio is a sign that has a natural drive to probe the deepest recesses of the human psyche, and he really craves the gritty give and take of intimacy. Yet he wants to be safe, thus his penchant for secrets and mistrust. He knows only too well that we all possess dark primordial emotions of greed, spite and selfishness. He has probed his own psychic depths and has found all of these instinctual drives alive and well. Therefore, he is torn between his desire for deepest union and his need to maintain control. He knows you have this battleground inside, too, and he fears you may not be a strong as he is. You may succumb and leave him heartbroken, humiliated and violated.

The eighth house is the place where we all must deal with the risks and psychological challenges of committed relationship. Liz Greene, the British astrologer and Jungian therapist, calls the eighth house a “battleground.” I appreciate this analogy since the eighth house is where we must assert our will in relationships against the will of the other, and we must rein in those drives within us that society and our partners find intolerable. We must negotiate and bargain and set firm boundaries and often police those boundaries as well.

If we lived completely alone with no other human beings, we would never come to see many of our faults or how our actions sometimes hurt others. Relationship often becomes the vehicle for personal change, where some aspects of ourselves must die, and we become transformed. So it follows that the eighth house is where we may face the ugliest and neediest parts of ourselves if we can transcend a conscious ego that would rather not look. Positive transits to this house can indicate an auspicious time to enter therapy and probe ones’ unconscious. Signs and planets in this house can tell us how we will handle power struggles, the tasks of self-transformation, and about our sexual attitudes and preferences.

It would seem that death would logically be a 12th house matter, and it is in a more mystical sense of complete ego transcendence, the ultimate death of the ego. But ego death starts first in house number 8. It is through self mastery, self analysis, self discipline that we first experience meaningful transformation. Thus, eighth house is also about rebirth and resurrection.

Compatibility myths.

Astrologers frequently make general claims about how Fire Signs are most compatible with other Fire Signs and Air Signs, or that Water Signs are most compatible with other Water Signs or the Earth Signs. These recommendations are so general they are virtually useless since they are aimed at a general public that sees itself as one sign – their Sun Sign. But astrologers know that the Moon Sign and the Rising Signs are equally important determinants of personality and temperament. Also, the relationships between the planets, Sun and Moon also have a very critical impact on personality and the many aspects that are formed between the individual charts of the partners are also important determinants.

Many years experience doing charts of happy couples in long-lived relationships does not bear out these general compatibility maxims that categorize by elements or by the masculine and feminine signs. One is far more likely to find a person with whom they will have a long-lived and fulfilling marriage or love relationship with someone who was born in the Sun Sign just before or just after your own. This seems to be a function of the composite charts that are produced in these situations since people born in the months closest to your birth month are likely to have the Venus, Sun and Mercury relatively close to yours. This phenomenon then causes the composite positions of these planets in your relationship or composite chart to form conjunctions which are very compelling determinants of compatibility and feelings of simpatico. The Sun conjunct Venus or Mercury in the composite chart is an excellent aspect that contributes to harmony. The three together even more so. The stellium or conjunction of the Sun, Venus and Mercury is fairly common in really good marriages. It seems that this stellium creates a very strong feeling of simpatico and attraction.  Many of the celebrity couples who have had long standing marriages also boast this stellium often with a fourth planet included. Some of these couples are Kyra Sedgewick and Kevin Bacon, Johnny Cash and June Carter, Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman, Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan, Ellen Degeneres and Portia DiRossi, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft just to name a few.

I have found two legendary love affairs that boasted the conjunction of Sun, Moon and Venus-only two among the hundreds of relationship charts I have cast. The first of these two great love affairs is that of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. The second one is the life-long marriage of Annie Oakley and Frank Butler. Admittedly, the latter example is without exact birth times and Moon positions are indefinite, but the Moon generally is allowed a very large orb in chart analysis.

When looking at the Rising Signs of partners, compatibility by elements does seem to have some validity with the Air and Fire match and Earth and Water match appearing in the many charts of the happily wedded. However, there seems to be no such pattern with sun or moon signs.

One of the problems with the simplistic maxim of masculine and feminine signs being incompatible with each other, is that often opposites attract. Carl Jung, the great Swiss psychologist, postulated that we all posses an anima, a feminine component, and an animus, a masculine component, in our psyches. He also believed that the psyche seeks wholeness; therefore, if we are weak in a certain element we may unconsciously be very attracted to a partner who is strong in that element. This is quite common especially for individuals whose self-awareness is limited. The psyche seeks balance, and thus Earth signs are often compulsively attracted to Fire Signs and Air Signs compulsively attracted to Water Signs. These matches are frequently challenging, and we learn from these difficult situations. It just might be that it is part of one’s karma or spiritual journey to have an intimate relationship with someone whose way of relating to the world is quite different from our own. This can be a catalyst to becoming more “whole” if we accept the challenge and learn to see ourselves and the world through our partner’s eyes. It just might be that the person who is most “compatible” to us is not the person who would be best for us because there would be no catalyst for growth in such a relationship.

I have come to the firm conclusion that composite relationship charts are the single best astrological tool for assessing relationships. Synastry is helpful, but because each birth chart boast dozens of points and planets, and now asteroids as well, it becomes a daunting task to enumerate and rank the dozens and dozens of intra-aspects. This is a system that can easily collapse under the weight of its own complexity as each aspect is a fragment unto itself defying a coherent or meaningful synthesis.

As an artist I used to say that any two colors can look great together, it all depends on the shades of those colors and the amounts used. Likewise any two signs can create a very fulfilling relationship or a really horrid one – it all depends …

Triple fire, triple air? Where are you?

I have been compiling charts of well known people who are “triple” of each of the four elements to use in my astrology classes. These would be individuals who have their Sun, Moon and Ascendant in the same element and have some degree of public notoriety.

I have found two very good examples of Triple Water Signs. One is Joni Mitchell, and another is the astrologer Mark Husson.  Both are great examples of the best expression of the water element.

I have found two Triple Earth Signs. One is Dolly Parton who exemplifies the shrewd business acumen associated with earth. She has a strong fifth house in her natal chart that would give a creative drive in an artistic direction.  Another is Brian Epstein who was the manager of The Beatles. His birth time is not well documented, but his life would be exemplary of the tendency for heavy earth sign persons to work behind the scenes in service to another’s creative vision.

I have yet to find a Triple Fire or Triple Air. If you can help me locate some, that would be very helpful.  I am finding many charts that are heavy in these elements but none that have the Sun, Moon and Ascendant in Air or Fire. Feel free to comment here.