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Depth analysis of the Natal Chart: Inferior Functions (Pt 1)

The great beauty of astrology is the enormous insight it can give by keeping to the simplicity of just pIanets, signs, houses, and aspects. Look at both what is there and what is not there in the natal chart, for what is not there is equally as powerful an influence as what is. So: how do we begin to determine which planets dominate the chart? How do we evaluate the power of what is not there? What stands out as peculiar and unique in each chart? What strikes the eye?

The DOMINANT FUNCTION in the chart is indicated by where the most energy is collected and the INFERIOR FUNCTION is where there is the least or none at all. The dominant function is where we feel most natural, comfortable, at home; we take the talents and abilities associated with it for granted. It is easy and natural. Therefore, it may not be a source of great motivation. The inferior function comes into play when we are under stress, when we have to cope, when we feel out of our element. This can be a source of great motivation and creative expression. But, there is a trickster quality about it; it is there when least expected. It undermines the dominant function. Suddenly, all the gifts, talents, achievements can be wiped out! The rug is pulled out from under the comfortable, habitual way of being and interacting. The inferior function manifests in embarrassing and inappropriate ways.

The Singleton

The SINGLETON is one of two types of inferior functions. Singletons show up as one-of-a-kind in one or more categories; by modality, element, orientation by sign and house, or as the only planet in one hemisphere. In whatever way a planet is a singleton, it is equally important. The more times it is a singleton, the more it is emphasized, and the more highly focused it tends to be in the psychology and in the life. The energy of the singleton planet, the quality of the sign and house in which it is posited and the house(s) it rules are all highlighted. A singleton is both the “runt of the litter” and the “pig of the litter.” It can demand nearly all of a person’s psychic energy, starving the dominant function.

People tend to handle their inferior functions through one or more of the following psychological defense mechanisms:

  • DENIAL – “I don’t know what you are talking about!” Rage is the first symptom of denial.
  • REPRESSION/SUPPRESSION – “I know what it is, but I do not do it!” Such as, “I may feel angry, but I stuff it.
  • PROJECTION – “The other does it,” or “S/He/They make me do it!” Blame is the name of the game -not taking personal responsibility; so is falling in love or in hate.
  • SUBLIMATION – “I’m not doing it, I’m writing a book about it,” or “I’ll help you deal with it in your life.” Therapists make their livelihood doing this.
  • OVERCOMPENSATION – “That’s all I do!” “I make a very good living doing it,” or, “That’s all I can ever think about!

Our culture rewards the overcompensators (“achievers”) and the sublimators. They are the success stories. The average person tends to go along denying, repressing and projecting his highly charged issues until a catastrophic crisis comes along. Then, and only then, he may change his modus operandi with respect to it.

As examples of the different ways a MOON singleton can function, let’s look at the Moon in Taurus singletons in The charts of Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky and Ken Starr. Keep an mind that a Taurus Moon is nourished by all things sensually attractive and pleasurable: food, sex, music, and money, to list a few. Taurus is a personal sign; therefore, MY pleasure, MY nurturance, MY money is sought. Taurus wants to be touched, stroked and held, to be given things of beauty or value. Pleasures of the mouth, food, drink, oral sex gratification are quite Taurian.

(Look at charts of Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky, Ken Starr, Hillary Clinton)

Clinton‘s Moon is the only Earth, and the only social house planet. It is in the eighth house and rules the tenth, his career. In a man’s chart, the Moon tends to be projected on women and sometimes on children. A singleton exaggerates this tendency. Men who have not accepted and integrated their lunar qualities will look for women who will actualize them. The women he has allegedly been involved with are quite Venusian, Aphrodite-like, voluptuous, beautiful in a slightly “trashy” way. Aphrodite never denies her sensuality, rather flaunts it. An eighth house moon seeks nurturance through sex, breaking sexual taboos, power/powerlessness and risk-taking. This twice-singleton Moon points to addictive tendencies: sex addict, workaholic, adrenaline junkie who creates crises for himself. The inner child (Taurus) gets nurturance and parenting through its opposite sign, Scorpio, his wife’s Sun, Mercury, Venus sign. He seems to enjoy coming back, pulling himself up from or out of the crises he creates, a Scorpio/8th house quality. In the Lewinsky affair, he was at first in denial, at least publicly, and perhaps he even believed it was not sexual. Now, projection seems to be going on as he seems to indicate that she pursued him, the “I only did it because she made me do it,” routine.

Bill Clinton birth chart

Bill Clinton birth chart

Monica‘s Moon is her only Earth sign planet. As a woman with a Venus-ruled Libra ascendant, she identifies herself with the Aphrodite archetype. She not only likes to eat good food and drink fine wine, she sees herself as an alluring, seductive and sexually irresistible “vamp.” By her own admission, she likes to seduce older, married men for the sense of power it gives her. She is definitely over-compensating lunar issues. She was attracted to the “little boy” in Clinton, his Taurus Moon; she wrote Bill “I want to see you in bed with a winning lottery ticket in one hand and a can of whipped cream in the other” – very Taurian! She thought they were “sexual soul-mates,” and she was right-on about that. They knew how to give each other exactly what was desired because it was their own need, too. She is also the needy, wounded child, still very dependent on a scheming mother and her family in general. It was an older woman “friend” a mother-substitute, who “did her in” just as transiting Uranus in Aquarius squared her natal Moon.

Monica Lewinsky birth chart

Monica Lewinsky birth chart

Ken Starr has his Taurus Moon as a singleton for it is the only planet in a personal house, the fourth. It rules his eighth house of power, taboos, secrets, sex, and other people’s money (U.S. taxpayers!). Something was peculiar about his relationship with his mother and his early upbringing which he would probably deny. His Moon is also at 0 degrees, very naive and childish. Much of what he does with his lunar qualities may be hidden from the public, known only to his nearest and dearest. Outwardly he sublimates and projects. He wrote a book, the report to Congress, largely pornographic, dealing with other people’s sexual activities. He spent huge sums of money (Taurus) doing his investigation, and doubtless got paid enormous sums for it. Some overcompensation on the money issue, at least. We suspect he denies and represses his own lascivious urges, yet is obsessed with those who indulge such inclinations – perhaps he is envious, jealous.

Ken Starr birth chart

Ken Starr birth chart

We can see in these three singleton Moons in Taurus what incredible power and psychic energy can be consumed in their processes. The whole U.S.A. seems to have been sucked into the maelstrom. Note, the U.S. chart shows only two outer planets in Earth signs, Neptune in Virgo and Pluto in Capricorn. As a collective, we tend to do weird things with the Earth element -rape of the natural environment, obsess on money and business, fear of and fascination with sex, and we have more obese people than any other Western country! The Clinton, Lewinsky, Starr affair plus the U.S.A. adds up to a marriage made in hell, ‘where’ depends on your own perspective and perception.

Absent Functions

Let’s now look at the second type of Inferior Function: the Absent Function. That happens when there are no planets in an element, modality or orientation. When there are no planets in an element, there is a hidden grand trine; and when there are no planets in a modality, there is a hidden grand square. Both grand trines and grand squares, obvious or “hidden,” are closed systems. The person lives in his own self-created world and is inaccessible to others along the lines of the element or modality that is involved. He tends unconsciously to block out relationships in the area of the major configurations. For example, a grand trine in fire, either present of hidden, can bring great luck and taken-for-granted skill in areas of creativity and visionary intuition. As a closed system, other people cannot hook into the person’s dramatic and passionate world. It is a place within his psyche where he is complete within himself and does not need relationships. In this area, at least, he is self-fulfilled. The difference between the grand trine and the hidden grand trine is this: the first expresses with a natural easiness and grace, with nonchalance, while the absent grand trine comes up with urgency, intensity and passion. For example, Beethoven had no water; his music is intense and soul wrenching in its passion; Liszt had a grand trine in water and his music flows with ease, feeling and romance.

The grand square when present in aspects between planets in the four signs of the same modality tends to manifest as great energy and stability. People who found organizations or movements, like Mao Tsetung and J. Donald Walters (Kriyananda), have grand squares. Their downfall may come through their inability to receive or accept input from others that seems to contradict or criticize their ideas or ideologies. A hidden grand square, for example, Mick Jagger’s hidden cardinal square, often is overcompensated. Although Jagger has no planets in cardinal signs, he nonetheless seems to be a perpetual motion machine.

The absent function manifests psychologically most often in two ways. It is a source of great creativity, and it tends to be so in terms of overcompensation. A person with a missing element or modality is likely to be an overachiever in terms of the element or modality. He may be rather obsessed, driven to do something creative with it. The other response is to let the absent function become the source of the shadow, that repressed part of the self that is a source of great annoyance when it is encountered in other people. For example, a man with no occupied water signs may find himself inordinately offended or upset by emotional, sentimental weeping people, especially women or ethnic minorities whose culture permits much more emotional expressiveness than his mainstream standards allow. Bill Clinton has no water sign planets, yet he has a Singleton Moon and Neptune on the Ascendant. Many Americans like him because he has “soul” and “rhythm”; they feel he identifies with them with great sensitivity and compassion. Pain enduring and pain inflicting are also associated with the water element. We as a nation have had a year of pain and passion as a result of the Clinton soap opera.

The absent function tends to be all on or completely shut down. There is an extremist quality about it. Among the famous people with no fire are the flamboyant actors, Rudolph Valentino and John Berrymore. Writers and intellectuals like William F. Buckley and Oliver Wendel Holms often have no air in their charts. No water shows up in the charts of poets and composers. Water/emotion tends to be repressed in Western culture and the lack of it may show up as a tendency toward cruelty due to lack of awareness of another’s feelings, and combined with denial and projection, one may blame one’s own pain on others, then inflict it on them. Hitler had no Water. A lack of earth can produce a millionaire like J. Paul Getty, as well as substance abusers like Judy Garland and Dylan Thomas. Missing earth also gives a tendency towards abstraction. The charts of great modern astrologers, Marc Edmund Jones, Dane Rudhyar and Robert Hand are waterless.

When the absent function appears on the Ascendant or the Midheaven, the persona, personal or public, tends to overcompensate; it is all façade. Often it is a case of false advertising: what you see is not what you get when you take the package home and unwrap it! Marilyn Monroe, with her Taurus Midheaven, is a good example. The public image she projected was the sex goddess. Inside she was air and water, all ideas, thoughts and emotions, with no way of “grounding” herself. In my own practice, I have noticed people with a missing function represented by the Ascendant sign to be very frustrated and uneasy. They may identify totally with the Ascendant personality and feel hollow inside, or feel that they have to put out a lot of energy to keep up the false front and, therefore, can never completely express who they really are.

When dealing with a chart that has missing functions, it is important to look at the progressed planets and the outer planet transits. For example, a person with no air may have a progressed Sun in an air sign, at the same time outer planets may be transiting another air sign. That would be a time for the person to really use his or her hidden talents and experiment with communication, writing, speaking, relationships and group involvements. It is also important to look at the person’s relationships, especially family relationships that we do not consciously choose. For example, a woman with no fire was born into a family with a double Sagittarius (Sun and Moon) father, a double Leo (Sun and Moon) sister and a mother with an Aries Moon as part of a grand fire trine! She had to learn very early to overcompensate along dramatic, creative lines just to survive in that volatile household. Bill Clinton, with no water, has a water sign daughter (Pisces) and wife (Scorpio Sun and Pisces Moon). That is a case, perhaps, of “let Jane do it,” of projecting his own unexpressed emotional qualities on female family members.

We see again, as we did with Singleton planets, that missing functions correlate with uniqueness, talent, color and drama in the personalities and lives of the charts’ owners.

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About the author:

Eleanor Buckwalter has studied, practiced and taught astrology in Los Altos, CA for more than twenty-five years, including three years with the late Richard Idemon, a psychological astrologer. Her primary astrological focus of interest is parent-child relationships and family dynamics.



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