Where the problem of agency is concerned, as in cartomancy whose many rules have been derived from astrological correspondences, so in astrology. In classical astrology, as in classical fortunetelling, it is crucially important to know who is who and doing what to whom. How do we assign significators to the many actors playing a natal, electional, or horary field?
Modern astrology and modern cartomancy have solved the problem of agency with assuming that the planets or the court cards and trumps in a sequence are all aspects of the one single significator that we determine beforehand. As I don’t find this assumption conducive to anything that makes my brain rock, I hardly ever employ it in my readings. I prefer to think of the landscape of a chart, or a card sequence, as it participates in a narrative about the self in context and in relationship with other actors, rather than as always being the reflection of self-mirrored interests. We are all relational selves, hence it is hardly ever the case that in a landscape that creates correspondences we can embody all the functions. If only.
Here, I find that the one classical question that makes us snap out of our individualism is the question that relates to a love triangle. I’ve just received this question below for a horary chart, and which gave me an opportunity to ponder over a few problems with agency. I’ve written about this in connection with the cards, but never in connection with the stars, so, let’s see if I can offer something useful in this area too.
While the text that follows requires some rudimentary knowledge of horary astrology, others interested in what we can make of ‘actors’ in divination may find the discussion useful. For a list of terms, in case you stumble over some terminology that’s unfamiliar, check this list with SkyScript.
ONE-SIDED LOVE TRIANGLE
I have to say that I receive this type of question on a weekly basis. It’s popular to think of your ex in spite of most people’s immediate response: ‘Not again’, or ‘what is all this obsession good for?’ But it seems that although we can suggest to the querent that this question may ring the tone of the pathetic fallacy where their own emotional business is concerned, people want to know what people want to know. Fair enough. It’s not for me to judge other people’s motives, but it fascinates me to consider what underlies the premise for such concerns.
Now, let’s see what we can make of this question in the context of assigning ‘double’ significators to persons whose concerns involve a third party. Without getting into an age-old debate, I want to look at the dynamics of what happens when we maintain the querent in play, and not only as a silent witness to the drama of another, but rather as someone who is affected and who also affects what happens in a chart. In classical astrology we have the situation when the querent is simply sent for a walk in the woods, while the astrologer assigns to the person inquired about the spot otherwise occupied by the querent.
In horary astrology, and classically speaking, the general rule for questions about relationships is the following:
- The querent (the one asking the question) is represented by the Lord of the Ascendant.
- The quesited (the one the question is about) is represented by the Lord of the 7th house.
- The third party (the one involved with the quesited) is represented by the turned chart or by the context (that is to say, by counting houses to the cusp of the relevant house of interest from the 7th house).
Now, it is exactly here where the difficulty arises when we talk about love. Say, if I asked the question, I would be the Lord of the Ascendant. My lover would be the Lord of the 7th house, as he is the other (on the Descendant and in direct opposition to me, the Ascendant). My lover’s lover would be 7 houses away from the 7th house, which brings me back to the Ascendant. What’s going on? Am I both, the one who wants to know things, AND the other woman, or the third party at the same time? Isn’t there a conflict of interests? Indeed there is.
As a general rule, astrologers have pointed out that determining this particular relation must be based almost exclusively on context – that is, in addition to still maintaining the first rule: Ascendant equals Querent. Here I appreciate Deborah Houlding’s suggestion in her essay about relationship (and many other places in the SkyScript forum), that before we assign all 3 significators, perhaps we can start with the main two: Her (AC) and Him (DC) and then, instead of counting yet 7 more houses from the 7th house in the radical chart so we don’t mess up the symmetry, we simply follow the aspects that the ruler of 7 makes and see where that leads us. If the Lord of 7 leads me to a trine with Venus in the house of pleasure, the 5th house, then, voilà, I can tell the querent that her suspicions have just been confirmed: Her lover has a new lover. Then I can look at what’s happening in more specific terms. At the end of the day, the deciding factor will be determined by the way the planets receive each other, in each others’ dignities or lack thereof.
INSHALLAH, MY AIM
The ancients have solved this problem by suggesting that the Lover must assume the position of the Ascendant, as his life indicates a path and a life-force independent of outside concerns about it (Sahl, Masha’allah, 2008). William Lilly also states: ‘Of a woman, whether she be corrupt, or has a Lover besides her Husband or sweetheart. Behold the Ascendant and his Lord, and the Moon’ (Lilly, 2004: 313).
While all this re-establishes the binary relation neatly, and we have no headache in the mapping of the one-to-one relation (the Lord of the Ascendant, 1st house, vis-à-vis the Lord of the Descendent, 7th house), it leaves the querent, the person asking the question, completely out of the equation. With no agentic power, at best, the querent renders herself merely pathetic, suggesting in the process that not only does she waste her time with a question that is nothing other than an exercise in futility, but that she also wastes the astrologer’s time. But what if there’s a good reason for asking this question? Pragmatically speaking, no querent wants to ask a question without having a stake in it.
Consequently, I’m interested in where precisely in the chart we can locate the querent’s stake in the question, so that we don’t merely end up with the easy solution, or the muddled one, the solution that disregards the querent’s interest or the one that makes more of it than it’s necessary.
Finally, let’s look at this chart below.
As the question here does not relate to a third party as such, other than through implication (the lover’s household may include a new woman, children, pets, and other stuff), we will locate the significator for our querent’s lover’s house in his turned chart, that is to say, in the 4th house from his 7th, or in the 10th house from the Ascendant, the querent’s house.
My point is, however, to combine the method employed by the ancients, and then look at what we can do with modern common sense and logical inference regarding how we can honor figuring out where to place the querent’s stake in the matter vis-à-vis what she wants to know without compromising the reading.
In other words, what I’m interested in this essay is to investigate what we get out of a reading when we maintain two perspectives at the same time, or when we allow all the actors involved to take turns in telling their story, whether from a marginal position, such as in the situation when we relegate the querent to the paratext, or the outer frame of the chart, in order to make space for the quesited to occupy the querent’s spot on the Ascendant, or from a more central position, when we would focus the reading on a subject and his or her motivations for his or her acts. Let me call this the reading for the parallel signification.
The querent (the one asking the question) is represented by the Lord of the Ascendant, here in Leo, and ruled by the Sun in Pisces in the 9th house (Mercury’s term and Jupiter’s face.) In the 1st house we also find Jupiter, the planet of generosity and learning in his own decan and Saturn’s term. (Although decans and terms, or bounds, are not the most significant indicators of dignities, where reception is concerned, it makes sense to consider to what extent we like a planet in its own face, which indicates a preoccupation with oneself.)
The quesited (the one the question is about) is represented by the Lord of the 7th house, here in Aquarius ruled by Saturn in Sagittarius in the 5th house (Saturn’s term and Venus’s face). No other planets assist Saturn in the 7th or 5th.
The third party by implication (the domestic affairs of the quesited) is represented by the turned chart and by the context of the question. That is to say, by the ruler of the 4th house counted from the 7th house in the radical chart, here represented by Mars in Aries. In this house we also find Venus in her detriment, or exile, and the lunar South Node, suggesting that whatever goes on between Mars and Venus is of the domestic front and not for the public’s eye. As the unfortunate South node assists the lesser malefic, Mars, we can imagine who the weaker part here is, namely, the debilitated Venus. I mention this relation of the strength of the planets because we often also assign significators according to the strength of their testimony in a matter (Steven Birchfield, 2008), which is something that may not always follow the rule of assigning agency according to the primary rulership of sign.
THE SIMPLE STORY THE CONVOLUTED WAY
Straight off, and if we go with the ancients and assign agency to the quesited through the Ascendant and the 1st house, just by looking at the aspect that Mars and Venus make to Jupiter in the 1st house, we get an idea. Both make a trine to Jupiter, and we could argue that, what the quesited’s household wants is to have a harmonious relation, based on generosity, joviality and largess in understanding. But, upon further reflection, while Venus is in a separating trine with Jupiter, Mars is applying to the trine Jupiter. Considering Venus’s debilitated state, one could argue that while Venus is tired of Jupiter, hence leaving, Mars is still in it, entertaining expectations. Basically, when planets ‘go’ to Jupiter, they can expect benevolence, but here, the ‘good’ that’s coming for one, is over for the other. Furthermore, as we’re having a future meeting between a malefic and a benefic, we can only imagine the sparks, especially as the other benefic has just left the scene. Here, remember, however, that when we speak of Mars and Venus in this context, what we speak of is the planets that say something about about the quesited as signified by the Lord of the Ascendant, in this case signifying something about his public life. Mars and Venus being in the radical 10th house. Thus, if the quesited is given the first house, then the idea of family must be looked at through the cusp of the 4th house, in this case, Libra, ruled by Venus. So, Venus here acquires a double signification. She is both, the ruler of the quesited’s hearth (the radical 4th house) when the quesited is given the Ascendant, and a woman in his house, (the 4th house from the 7th in the turned chart). The essential information here is that, either way, she’s leaving. In the relation Ascendant-Descendant, we see how the ruler of the first house, the Sun has separated from a square with the ruler of the 7th, Saturn. More leaving.
Now, how about the querent’s and the quesited’s own perspectives? This is what we want to know, so hold this question in mind, as we’ll return to it.
But first, let us consider another relation in parallel. If we look at the Sun, as the significator for our querent, we can see that it’s weak, in a cadent house, and with no strong aspects (just a semi-sextile with Venus). The Sun’s antiscion (the shadow presence) is also ruled by Venus, being in Libra 13. Contextually this makes me think that we already have a situation here of the querent at a standstill, without much power to interfere. As the Sun is in the 9th house, the house associated with philosophy and understanding, we get the idea. Incidentally, the Sun is in Mercury’s term, which emphasizes a desire for trading for knowledge in exchange for self-knowledge. From this we can say that our querent’s stake in her question is of the mental kind. She’s thinking about it, and witnessing only what she imagines may be the case, and not what she knows for a fact.
The Sun, being in a cadent house in a water sign, yet ruled or disposited by Jupiter in 1st and in Jupiter’s decan (mixed reception), tells us that our querent poses her question more for her own sake, rather than for the sake of finding things out. I base this on the fact that the Sun, as relative to Saturn in 5th, only goes to Saturn by way of Saturn going to the Sun via its separating trine to the Ascendant. This sounds convoluted, but it’s not. Not yet.
As Saturn was in trine to the Ascendant, now separating from the cusp, ruled by the Sun, we are meant to judge that as far as the Sun is concerned, being quite uninvolved with Saturn having separated from a square, there’s only the enjoyment of the pain involved in the process of self-knowledge as it is generated from behind the scene. In this sense, our querent makes no impact on the affairs of the quesited, but not because she cannot, but because she will not. The Sun is in the exaltation of Venus, which means that our querent is held in high regard by the quesited, but this reception does not lend the Sun any power to act as such.
The Sun in 9th, separating from Saturn in 5th, and Saturn separating from a trine with the cusp of the 1st house, tell us of an experience of limiting all self-expression that is self-imposed. Does this still sound convoluted? Well, at this point it actually is convoluted, as this relation makes us wonder what the querent gets out of her question when the question seems to be both involved and uninvolved at the same time. Straightforwardly, as the Sun has separated from Saturn, we are meant to understand that the initial squaring off against each other is no longer of relevance. We’ll see more of this in a short while.
For the moment, as the Sun makes no aspect to the Ascendant, we will not take it as the significator that has the most powerful testimony in the matter inquired about. But if we turn to the Moon in 4th, we will see that while the planet is separating from a sextile aspect with Saturn in 5th, the house of children, pleasure and gambling, she is now applying to an opposition to Mars and Venus in 10th, the house of manifest achievements. This indicates that the querent had a past limiting and limited relationship with the quesited, yet of the amicable kind now slowly dissolving – Saturn in 5th tends to ruin the game. As the Moon is applying to an opposition with Mars, this suggests that there’s a tension in the way the Moon regards what’s going on in a house signifying the home of the quesited. The Moon is not only the querent’s co-significator, but often also an indicator of the state of affairs, and of how things develop.
Let’s speculate why.
The Moon in the 4th house of the radical chart, representing the general state of domestic relations in the life of the querent, is here in opposition to the idea that it fulfils only the function of showing off in the turned chart, where we find these house concerns mirrored (the Moon is in opposition to the Midheaven, the cusp of the 10th house, the house of manifestations, which in the turned chart becomes the 4th house of the home of the quesited). Moreover, the Moon’s triplicity in Libra is ruled by Saturn, and she is also in Saturn’s term, so we have here a further connection between the Moon (the querent’s significatrix and the significator for the whole situation) and the way Saturn (the quesited’s significator) casts his own trine unto the Midheaven, enforcing the previously mischievous tension between them. In a diurnal chart, to find diurnal Saturn in a nocturnal position makes him even more malefic then he is already.
In other words, the Moon is our querent’s significatrix, yet at the same time she also makes a statement as to the general situation which calls for assessing how we see hearth matters mirror each other, thus going from the radical chart’s 4th house to the turned chart’s 4th house. As the Moon separates from Saturn and applies to Mars, she transfers light from Saturn to Mars. Yet Mars being in fall of Saturn indicates that there’s some urgency here regarding the maintenance of status quo. What are the basic means employed in the governing of the household where Mars is dignified?
And who the hell is Mars? If we can’t immediately identify this power, though we can assume here that it’s embodied by a young man, we can go with this power’s function: to display initiative, drive, and impulsive assurance. As Mars is in his own domicile, he has lots to say. Mars has separated from a trine with Saturn, and is happy to command, but he is not rid of the greater malefic’s influence, as the Moon has transferred Saturn’s light to Mars. While Saturn may still be receptive, as testified by his position in both, the radical and the turned chart, he does something that’s surprising. By whatever chart rule, radical or turned, Saturn trines the Ascendant, and is still very much under the influence of the orb from the separating Moon with whom he was in cahoots through a sextile aspect around the time the question was asked. In this sense we can say that Saturn in more interested in the Ascendant than in his involvement with his own house affairs. While he may transfer the idea of honoring his house obligations, he seems to have other business in sight as well, here including applying to a square aspect to Jupiter in 1st.
From the perspective of our querent, the Sun (co-significator Jupiter), what Saturn has his eye on is how to get more recognition at work (the lunar North Node in the 10ht house from the 7th conjunct the Moon). Pertaining to Saturn’s household matters (the 4th house from the 7th), again we can say that they are dominated by a dignified Mars acting along a debilitated Venus. Mars and Saturn are on the same page through the Moon’s transferred light, but Saturn and Venus have no more business together. A debilitated Venus in fall of Saturn in the house of house matters is of no consequence.
Now, we have already seen how the Moon, by virtue of her function to be concerned with matters of home and security, is here at odds with the relations that unfold in the 10th house (the 4th in the radical chart). The Moon applies to two oppositions to both Mars and Venus, suggesting that she may be suspicious of relations that present themselves as private and house oriented but manifest outwardly, or for the sake of the public eye. In fact, how many times have we not seen the idea of ‘family’ being exploited in public? Just look at politicians. But here we say this while we maintain a double perspective pertaining to the 4th house in both, the radical and the turned chart.
As the Moon deals with private rather than public affairs, seeing how the quesited’s house in the turned chart gets dominated by a dignified Mars, naturally ordering around a debilitated Venus in exile, makes us ask: ‘Is this home for real?’ Now, also by virtue of the function of privacy to ensure that the private stays that way, we may also rightly ask: ‘Whether this family is for real or not, why would it be anyone’s business?’ We could easily launch here into a question about ethics, and people’s motivations to spy on others, whether through a telescope, a private detective, an astrologer, or a cartomancer. But it’s better not to judge. What I find interesting instead is what story we can say emerges from the reading of a chart and how that contributes to telling me something about the zeitgeist in society at large. Why are men and women generally concerned with the affairs of other men and women who have already vanished from their lives?
For instance, we can ask, why is it useful for our querent to learn that perhaps the man she once loved is more interested in placing his family on par with ‘realizations’? While we can say that it is here that we begin to sense what her stake in her question is, namely a question of principle: the family is not ‘strictly business’, we can also speculate that the only reason why she wants to know about the other’s family is because she needs a new narrative of herself that is entertaining through indirect implication in what was, once upon a time. So there’s more at stake here than a pathetic sense of righteousness, principle, and entitlement. There’s storytelling in which one can cast oneself as a witnessing protagonist.
But culturally speaking, we can still argue that what our querent discloses with her question is an implicit, unconscious motivation and desire to uphold the right reasons for partnership, and that she squares off against the idea of partnership being used to merely maintain bourgeois values and so-called respectability.
We can see this in the position of the Moon. If the Moon reacts here in opposition to the Midheaven and then Mars and Venus, then it’s because her suspicion is confirmed: the planets in the turned 4th house testify that the quesited’s home may be a thing for the public, what with Mars under Saturn’s light to act in the world as the responsible patriarch, full of principles and virile, while Venus casting herself as the ‘has been’ trophy wife through her separating from the trine to Jupiter (the quesited’s co-significator when the quesited is assigned signification through the Ascendant and the 1st house). Consequently, as both Mars and Venus aspect Jupiter in the 1st house, one through application and the other through separation, we can furthermore assume that the house regulations are split on how benefits are granted. Mars can expect them, Venus cannot.
Seen from the perspective of the querent, the fact that both Saturn and the occupants of his dwelling in the turned chart, Mars and Venus have been aspecting in trine the Ascendant and Jupiter is rather amusing, as the story now goes that everything revolves around the querent, and that somehow she calls the shots, summoning everyone to her table.
PARALLEL READING AND THE TRIANLGE OF COMPLICITY
In this parallel reading, then, we can say that he Moon fulfils a triple function. On the one hand it is the stronger significator for the querent. When following the ancients’ method of assigning the quesited the rulership of the Ascendant in Leo, we end up with the Moon in her natural house, Cancer, and going against having to deal with the partner of the quesited, now represented by the ruler of the 7th house, Saturn. From this perspective we advise our querent (who is on standby outside of the chart) to simply observe how Saturn, now the other woman, enters into relation with the Sun, our quesited, and the ruler of the Ascendant. It doesn’t look like they are on the same page anymore. As they never have been. Their separation from a square aspect testifies to tension and disagreement.
What was true of the quesited to begin with, when he was cast as Saturn, is now true of his partner. The other woman as Saturn entertains the same interests and ideals as the man did in our previous analysis. The only difference here is that we would have to assume that Venus and Mars in the 10th house relate either to employers, or more concretely, to a dissatisfied woman and a dominant boss or belligerent young man calling the shots in the public sphere. On the reception plane, the Moon in Libra ruled by Venus in detriment also tells us that we’re dealing here with a touchy situation, as the home values and the work matters are not harmoniously aligned.
If we now string all the perspectives together, without losing sight of the initial question, we can draw the following, general conclusion: all roads lead to the quesited in a circle, as he is represented first by the Lord of the 7th house ruled by Saturn, (viewed from the perspective of the querent), then by the Ascendant ruled by the Sun and co-ruled by Jupiter (the querent is on stand-by with no immediate significator in the chart), and finally by the Moon representing a strong contestant in the co-signification with the Sun, and which assists the Sun by giving a powerful testimony about the home/work axis.
As Saturn primarily aspects the Midheaven, the axis of the home in the turned chart, the emphasis is ensuring that the boundaries for proper conduct are maintained. In this sense the family is business. The impetuous Mars functions under some pressure from Saturn. As Saturn is the father, he passes his values on to his young sun. In contrast, cast as the Sun, the quesited is more indifferent to the whole family business, having only an oblique eye on Venus, who is already unable to impress. If we stick to strictly traditional astrology, and not bother with minor aspects such as a semi-sextile, we end up with no connection at all between the Sun and Venus.
How all this information may help our querent in her weaving of whatever she imagines here is bound to amount to second-guessing, but if it comforts her to know that the quesited here is more into playing house for formal reasons rather than for love, then so be it.
Technically, if we calculate the almuten, the power of the planets by essential and accidental dignities, we can see how Saturn clearly runs with the medals by all accounts. The question was posed in Saturn’s day and Saturn’ hour. The Ascendant/Descendant axis is in Saturn’s term, and the face or decan of Venus emphasizing a desire for orderly harmony. Saturn himself is, however, stronger inclined towards the Ascendant, in his mixed reception with Jupiter, the querent’s co-significator who is in her own face and the term of Saturn.
This mutual ‘looking back’ to the querent’s significator tells us something about the connection between her and her former lover, and explains her continuous interest in his affairs, now dwindling. They both watched each other under some pressure. As the Moon separates from Saturn, however, and applies to the opposition to Mars in the 10th, we are told that the querent is in the process of making some realization: perhaps she will bring to closure being caught in what can be interpreted as a pathetic interest. For indeed, why would she care about this Other? Mercury in the 8th house, the house of death, or the 2nd house in the turned chart, dealing with Saturn’s possessions, is separating from an opposition to Jupiter. The Moon applies to a trine with Mercury, but here perhaps enabling the querent to see more easily why communication is pretty dead, and it’s clear that Saturn keeps to his own. The Part of Fortune is also here, enhancing the formal, ‘this is mine’ attitude exhibited by Saturn.
From the perspective of how this whole affair concludes, as it relates to the querent’s stake in her question here, the news is not entirely favorable. While the connecting lines from the principle significators lead to the Ascendant (sextile from the Moon and trine from Saturn), we cannot say that all ends well with ruler of 4th in 10th. Venus as the Lord of 4th is still debilitated, separating from Jupiter’s benefits, and is on the run from cocky Mars who pursues her, yet without showing her much respect. As for the principal significator, Saturn, he is busy with being immersed in doing the right thing, sitting on his fortune, and yet sending goodbye kisses to the Ascendant. Imagine Saturn doing that. But then, I guess, even Saturn finds himself in the house of seduction now and then, where Venus rejoices. The overall tone, however, is still one of awkwardness and limitations. Jupiter can only do so many things, against the background of a Sun that does not allow itself to shine.
SYMMETRY AND HIERARCHY
Finally, I find reading for the parallel plot, and for the mirroring of relations when all actors are given a part to play, conducive to the creative act of interpretation. Holding several points of view and shifting significators in play lends dynamics and nuance to a reading. The only rule is to never forget the initial question. Logically speaking, and hopefully in line with what has informed the traditional astrologers’ basic common sense, I find it helpful to think of it in these terms: symmetry and hierarchy. With the ruler of the 7th you’re in a diametrically opposed relationship. You take a wife to establish a symmetrical relationship with her (ideally). With the ruler of 10th you submit to someone embodying the function of an institution, hence there’s hierarchy here, rather than symmetry. Same thing with the 5th. You think of your children as being under your tutelage. If a person you have no relationship with is missing, then the Ascendant is their significator, while you take the ruler of the 7th to mean ‘the astrologer’. This rule can also be applied to what I’ve just done above: when a person has no relation with another person, but for whatever reason wants to inquire about them – often because of past encounters or because these others are some sort of celebrities – then assign to that person the Lord of the Ascendant.
In establishing the right agency in a chart, I often say the following: keep it simple, stick to the rule, but remember also that a rule is a rule until it is not a rule anymore. In other words, activate your own common sense, and never forget the context. Everything must be interpreted according to the context of the question. Stick to your method, and be consistent. Without a method there’s no cohesive and coherent interpretation, but remember also that interpretation is an art, and as such it is prone to the unexpected dimension that participates in its creation, the tender voice of the text, the moving touch of your hand as you follow the planets in their movement, the compassion and beauty of the balancing acts between the stars, the geometry and the numbers that follow their own trajectories and permutations, the old masters of calculations who come our way to inspire us in thinking up new and exciting symbolic systems of thought.
Weave a story together, personify, and always remember to say something about who does what to whom, why, and for what purpose. We function in context, hence, once we’re done with figuring out who the main protagonist is, we must make sure to consider who the other actors are, for it is not certain that they will be ‘aspects’ of ourselves. Some are our lovers, some enemies, some our pets and children, and some friends. We must read the whole chart as a layered ‘crystal castle’ – as one of my teachers used to say – where it is always all about the planets’ disposition and rulership, axis and avowal.
Birchfield, Steven (2008) Is My Husband Having an Affair? A traditional Perspective on a Relationship Question. Skyscript. [http://www.skyscript.co.uk/affair.pdf]
Dykes, Benjamin, ed. and trans. (2008) Works of Sahl and Masha’allah. Cazimi Press.
Houlding, Deborah (1993) Horary Love Charts. Skyscript. [http://www.skyscript.co.uk/relationships.html]
–––––. The Moon as the Transmitter of Influences. Skyscript. [http://www.skyscript.co.uk/moon2.html]
Lilly, William (2004) Christian Astrology: An Introduction to Astrology. Astrology Classics: Regulus Publishing.
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