First Impressions- Major Aspect Structures (Part 2)
This is part two of two on building a first impression in a horoscope.
Life only makes sense when we order it to be so. Otherwise, we are overwhelmed by the unknown, swamped by the potential for confusion and chaos. We instinctively reach out and ground ourselves, drawing on relationships that connect us to greater themes and grander, richer lives.
Planets reach out for relationships too. In astrology, we call the geometric relationships between planets ‘aspects,’ and they utterly define what astrology is – a synthesis of symbology made real only through the microcosm of our lives. We forget this sometimes. We forget that planets, as astrological tools, only exist within the confines of our lives, not as absolutes. But connecting those planets is essentially completing the painting that is ones life. The colours are out on the canvas – the bold reds of Aries, the rich burgundy hues of Scorpio and lush Taurus greens. The planets help form the colours into strong themes. We get a sense of the painting. We feel its mood. But it is the aspects – the blending of these colours on the easel of your chart – that help give form to the painting…and the life itself.
Last article we learned that building a first impression of a horoscope begins with hemisphere emphases. To review quickly, many planets to the east (around the Ascendant) point to ego defensiveness and protection. To the west (near the descendant) we see a conspicuous orientation to others – a giving of oneself away and leaving oneself behind in the process. Many planets to the south (the top of the chart, near the Midheaven) point to someone who seems to be easily swept up by circumstances; it is a life where the environment fashions a life for the person instead of the other way around. Planets to the north (around the IC) show there is unfinished business from the early home life. There is too much anchor.
Then, we learned of the importance of the Sun-Moon blend. The Sun must be thought of as energy that is directed to the Moon to fulfill the reigning need. That is the simplest way possible to think of these two symbols. To deploy the Sun’s light it has to course through the Moon first. The Moon represents active needs.
We then learned of the power of the Saturn Retrograde symbol. With Saturn Retrograde, the father was absent or was there physically, but was weak, passive or even tyrannical (or a combination of both). But in some way the authoritative love we expect from a father is missing or incomplete.
Lastly, we look for the Lunar Nodal axis configured with any planet, preferably through a major aspect. Not just the North Node or the South Node separately, but the axis itself. When this is the case, there is a maternal complication of some sort, usually manifesting in a way that means the mother was dominant in the client’s life, often in default to our understanding of Saturn Retrograde.
Dominant Aspect Structures
Let’s take a look at Chart A, the horoscope of former televangelist Jim Bakker who was indicted in 1988, charged with illegally diverting millions of dollars of donations from his church toward his own use. After a six-week trial in Charlotte, N.C., he was convicted on 24 counts of fraud and conspiracy. Bakker was sent to the federal prison in Rochester, Minnesota, to serve 45 years for bilking his followers of $158 million worth of largely non-existent time-shares at his Heritage USA Christian theme park. His sentence was later reduced to 18 years, and then lightened considerably by placement into a halfway house. He was released in 1995.
Let’s apply what we have learned so far, before we move into dominant aspect structures. When we consider hemisphere emphases first, this happens to be one of those charts where no clear-cut emphasis exists in the north-south division. Looking at east-west, we see eastern defensiveness at work. He is instinctively protecting his ego against something or someone.
His Sun-Moon blend is clear. There is a reigning need for popularity, fairness and appreciation (Libra) and with much energy for ambition, mobilizing one’s resources and strategizing towards success (Capricorn).
We then look to Saturn to see if it is retrograde, but it is not, so our conclusion about ‘father’ in his life is not immediately apparent – yet.
The Lunar Nodal axis makes an opposition to Saturn, suggesting strong maternal influence, perhaps even harshness with the Saturn symbology.
Now, in any horoscope, the eye should next automatically go to the aspects that shout out to you. This is very simple to remember. Trust your intuition here. Forget sextiles, trines and minor aspects. Your eye should only be trained right now to look at conjunctions, squares and oppositions. (A quincunx can be pivotal in the absence of these other aspects, but rarely does analysis hinge upon this aspect of ‘adjustment.’)
If you are already comfortable with these aspects in terms of delineation, please add the highly-important quindecile, an aspect of 165 degrees. It is easy to spot – just look for an opposition (180 degrees) that seems ‘wide’ – it could be a quindecile. Use a tight 2.5 degree orb. (The quindecile denotes an unrelenting motivation and obsession related to the planets and houses involved. It was resurrected from obscurity by astrologer Noel Tyl. Since then, Ricki Reeves has written a book about it, ‘The Quindecile: The Astrology of Psychology and Obsession.’)
In Bakker’s chart, Neptune is opposing Mars (and Jupiter widely) and they are both square Mercury in the tenth house. This is called a T-Square and is a very dynamic, powerful construct in astrology. Look at it as an opposition first. Neptune is both inspirational and deceptive and is posited in the very public seventh house, ruling the Ascendant. His very persona is Neptunian. Identity development is difficult and will likely be confused with his public persona. Neptune-Mars always shows charisma, because applied energy meets extreme sensitivity. Sounds good so far for Bakker doesn’t it! Mars, the planet it opposes, rules the second house of self-worth and material possessions. Both Neptune and Mars are square Mercury, the planet of communication. Bakker needs to communicate strongly his beliefs for his very self-worth. Mercury is sitting in the tenth house of career, status and rules his seventh house (more emphasis on the public) and it also rules the fourth house (developmental tension seen with mother – again). It’s that easy! With one single dominant aspect construct, we have almost defined the essence of this person.
Let’s say we had brought Jupiter, with its wider orb conjunct Mars, into the same picture. Jupiter symbolizes religion and is the ruler of the Midheaven, more developmental tension in the early home life, and a strong indicator of career concerns. This only strengthens our first impression.
Next, we would also note that Chiron is squaring the Moon. Chiron always points to where there is hurt, anguish or wounds of some kind. In Bakker’s chart, it squares the Moon – mother, which rules his fifth house, symbolizing love given. Bakker’s ability to give love is under siege with this aspect. Both Jim Bakker and his wife, Tammy Faye, acknowledge that they gave their children all the material things they wanted because they didn’t have the time and patience to do it in any other way. Bakker’s own sexual exploits were also well-documented. Jupiter quindecile the Moon backs this assertion up further. Chiron opposing his Sun (the will) is also a very debilitating aspect without hard work.
In only a few short paragraphs, we have cut right to the heart of this horoscope. And every single horoscope can be done similarly with your patience and practice.
Let’s do it again.
Okay, Chart B is that of Jeffrey Dahmer, who committed at least 15 gruesome murders of homosexual men in Wisconsin in the early 1990s. Body parts of the men he killed were found in his freezer for consumption.
Notice the west is more strongly represented, with Sun and Moon both tilted this way, along with Mercury, Venus, Mars and Chiron. We then know this is someone who is conditioned to give of himself to others at the expense of himself. But what if we give and no one accepts? Think what that can do to a child and how it skews ones upbringing. Next, the Sun-Moon blend. The reigning need is to be ‘number one,’ to be important. There is energy for communication and diversification here, too, (Gemini).
Next, let’s check the condition of Saturn. Here it is Retrograde, immediately calling attention to the father, who was absent or was there physically, but was weak, passive or even tyrannical (or a combination of both). But in some way the authoritative love we expect from a father is missing or incomplete.
We know that while Jeffrey was still very young, his father worked long hours. Later, his parents would get divorced and his father moved out of the house.
We know his father, Lionel, assisted Jeffrey to get into the University of Ohio. But it was already too late, developmentally speaking. Dahmer had made his first killing at age 17, when he picked up a hitchhiker, brought him home, murdered him, and scattered the bone fragments in the woods behind the Dahmer home.
The Lunar Nodal axis also receives a quincunx from the Moon and a quindecile from Neptune. We know Dahmer’s mother doted on her son, and that both parents were strong Christians, perhaps to the detriment of Dahmer’s homosexuality.
Now, we’re ready to zero in on aspects. What makes sense to begin with? As a general rule of thumb, look to the most outer, heavier planets in the horoscope. Pluto (ruling the second house of self-worth) is squaring the Sun (ruling the eleventh house of love received). Both the Sun and Mercury are positioned in the eighth house, one of the houses dealing with sexuality (along with the fifth house). Look how much information this gives us already! This man’s self-worth is clearly under strain. His ability to accept love is hindered in some way, related to the sexuality profile.
Let’s now jump up to Uranus squaring Venus. Uranus rules the fifth house (love given – part of the sexuality profile) and it is squaring Venus (ruling the Ascendant – identity). This out-of-the-norm energy (Uranus) is placing great strain and expectations on Dahmer to carve out a niche and be different – to be a stand-out. In someone else – where perhaps a different environment supported, rewarded and allowed – the way in which one would choose to stand out would be, of course, very different. But we are still accurate in our assessment. What astrology will never tell us, is exactly how those energies might manifest. For that, we need client disclosure on some level.
If we want to go further into the chart, we see Saturn (ruling the fourth house – a parent) squaring the Moon (ruling the tenth house – a parent), tying in his early home life conditioning strongly. Jupiter also squares Mars, which is the ruler of his seventh house – relationships. Dahmer took his first victim at 17 years old, never experiencing the growth of relationships throughout a steady life development. Life got off track early, badly.
Lastly, let’s move to Chart C, ‘Dorothy,’a private case file. Notice the eastern orientation in the horoscope this time. There is defensiveness and ego protection, over-compensatory for something else, always. The Sun-Moon blend suggests a reigning need to be analytical, exacting, refining and insightful (Virgo) with much energy for self-assertion and truth-seeking (Sagittarius). Saturn is not retrograde, but is in the eleventh house, always suggesting a gargantuan need for love. Mars is conjunct the Nodal Axis, suggesting a mother who is dominant, perhaps intrusive and temperamental. Dorothy’s mother was, in fact, harsh and cruel. The father was largely uninvolved, other than as a disciplinarian. (Notice how this fits in with Saturn Retrograde symbolism, even though Saturn is not retrograde. The absence of this does not imply there is no father dilemma. Rather, it can often be seen in different ways.)
Dorothy’s family life was “hell,” according to her. There were six children – a “litter,” as Dorothy called it – and the parental expectations were that they must work on the farm and be seen and not heard.
So what is the aspect that cries out for understanding in this chart? The heaviest planet making a major aspect is Neptune and it is squaring Venus. Neptune is the ruler of the fourth house (a parent, home life) and Venus is the ruler of the seventh house (relationships.) What does this suggest at its absolute simplest? The answer is, ‘escape through relationship.’ That is exactly what Dorothy did, early in her life, at age 17. With her disclosure, we know why she did so. We know what there was to escape in this family dynamic. In another life, another horoscope, the reasons for wanting to escape may be very different.
Because Saturn is conjunct Neptune, it is also square Venus, further applying energy and difficulty to relationships. Dorothy got married and had a child, then divorced her husband at 21.
Notice Jupiter is squaring Mars, ruling the fifth house (love given), further corroboration that her ability to love and be loved may be hindered by the developmental tension of her childhood. Mercury, ruler of the tenth house, is square the Moon on the MC, which equals more tension with parents, affecting her very identity since Mercury is in the first house. Chiron is in the second house (self worth) which can also be destabilizing until one can get a handle on ones proper life path.
Dorothy got remarried at 26. At 27, she got caught up in an oppressive church with her husband which lasted until her Uranus opposition at 42. In between, there were cycles of depression; the marriage was rife with verbal, emotional and sometimes physical abuse.
During our consultation, it was my job as an astrologer to provide objectification for her experiences, to shore up self-worth and to provide context for the growth of her life from here on in. Dorothy was well on her way to achieving this for herself, thanks to a lot of personal hard work.
For the last three years Helen has been in school, and will soon have her social worker’s diploma. She is doing very, very well. The work I did with her began – and ultimately ended – on the strength of major aspect structures in her chart. I didn’t need to discuss her Jupiter-Chiron trine, delve into asteroids or delineate each house cusp. Everything falls into place when we trust ourselves to listen to the big messages of a horoscope.
Practice with acquaintances or friends and simply follow the hemispheres, Sun-Moon blends, Saturn Retrogrades and Nodal axis. Then follow the major aspect structures and watch astrology come alive through the person in front of you. Trust your intuition. Your astrology – and you – will ultimately grow with fewer measurements, not more.
By Roderick Benns