CASE STUDY: SYNASTRY IN ACTION
“Rory and Alice were divorced 5 years ago. However, because of their children, they still have ongoing contact with each other that is not very amicable. Alice complains that Rory is irresponsible, unreliable, uncaring and constantly undermines her with the children. Rory says Alice is inflexible and doesn’t allow him to be a free spirit or realise he has other things that are more important than keeping schedules. Alice has come to you to help her understand the relationship dynamics between the two of them better, as their constant bickering is affecting the children. Using the technique of chart comparison (synastry) explain their relationship dynamics to Alice and suggest ways of improving the relationship for the sake of the children.”
December 2, 1958
9:45 PM AEST
Pennant Hills, NSW, Australia
October 24, 1950
6:10 PM AEST
Canterbury, NSW, Australia
“…for I tell you father,
I am as peremptory as she is proud-minded;
and where two raging fires meet together
They do consume the thing that feeds their fury:
Though little fire grows great with little wind,
Yet extreme gusts will blow out fire and all:
So I to her and so she yields to me;
For I am rough and woo not like a babe.”
-William Shakespeare (1)
Mary Alice has come seeking advice on her relationship with her ex-husband. They have been five years divorced, and presumably have no interest in rekindling any romance with each other. They retain contact because of their children. Alice makes no mention of their age nor whether they live with her or their father, Rory. Going on the basis that the children are still in school and live with their mother, Alice’s request brings the 5th House of children into the matter.
However, the focus of Alice and Rory’s relationship problems is best described by the traditional means of synastry: understanding each native’s capacity for relationships, and comparing the two charts for both troublesome and harmonious interaspects as a way of illuminating the basic patterns at work. From this can come awareness and thus, possible solutions.
has ostensibly come about the children. Their happiness is apparently being
affected by her acrimonious relationship with her ex-husband Rory. Alice does
not make clear how the children are being affected, nor how old they are
although this might have some bearing on the situation. If the children are in
their teens, are they contributing to the tension between the couple? Are they
playing Mom off Dad and vice versa?
Such are the complex dynamics involved, that the astrologer must be very careful when approaching the matter from the outside. No assumptions can be made! Each person involved has his or her own perspective. The fact that Alice has come for a reading on her own to discuss a matter that includes her partner does concern me. I would prefer Rory to be in attendance as well. The implication here is that Alice might be looking for an “inside edge” or validation of her perspective on their joint behaviour.
What this means for the astrologer is extra vigilance in maintaining freedom from bias. Effective evaluation requires not only fairness but also a balance of perspective, with Rory’s “voice” receiving equal airtime. Synastry is not just about sign compatibility. And although the reading will be done from the perspective of a relationship that has run its course romantically, it is helpful to build the picture bit by bit, starting at the beginning.
One natal chart alone contains many threads of potential personal expression. Brought together with another, the threads can become a jumble of (sometimes contradictory) potentialities. Robert Hand wryly observes that when doing synastry the astrologer is faced with the enormous task of sorting out who is doing what to whom and how.(2)
And so with Alice and Rory’s natal charts in front of me, the best way to begin is to consider each natal chart separately. It is best that this is done before making any attempt at all to explain their inter-dynamics.
Each chart is assessed as to the capability for relationships. Before we even begin to ask, “Where is the love?” we might instead pare it back to “the skeleton of the character:” the Sun, Moon, and Ascendant.(3) Where are the needs, the potential insecurities? (Moon) In what direction is the client headed in order to fulfil their core individualism? (Sun) How does the native view the world and orientate himself toward it? (Ascendant) The Sun is important to note, as the urge to continue our personal journey (as our Sun describes it) does not end with one’s pairing with another.
A Sun will make its push forward regardless of obstacles. The compatibility between Sun signs really begins with the person’s need to individuate and how easy-going or hard-nosed they will be in this quest.
The Moon is the archetypal inner child in the chart. Its sign and aspects reflect the emotional nature in all its moods. The Moon also shows the urge to mother, in what realm and in what way. Regardless of whether a person thinks they have shrugged off this “weak” part of themselves at adulthood, the Moon is ever a player between partners.
The Ascendant is our basic filter through which we understand our world, and handily it is the most obvious indication to others as to our primary motivation. But if our Ascendant expresses energies that are not backed up by the rest of the chart---a watery sign as the only water in the chart, for example---then we might find ourselves constantly misunderstood. Perhaps we might even be accused of deliberately misrepresenting ourselves.
Planets on or near an angle will show themselves strongly as part of our personality, as will those planets that are in their rulership or exaltation. Cadent planets, especially those “lost” in the 12th House, unaspected, in partile conjunction to other planets, intercepted, in detriment or fall, part of an aspect pattern---these all colour the condition, and so the pure expression of the planet’s archetypal energies. These are all influences that can lie behind the “Primal Triad” (4) and are potential “shadows” for us to deal with as the relationship unfolds. Time reveals truth; in time the “details” of oneself emerge for the Other. This brings us to the 7th House of marriage, where the “sphere where we learn greater co-operation with others,” (5) is brought into the picture.
In synastry, the 7th House cusp represents the balance to our Ascendant. As befits the mystic reasoning behind astrology, “the others” we are drawn to and tend to attract, carry an intrinsic benefit to us: as yin is to yang, male to female, yes to no---those who resonate with our Descendant offer us the perfectly opposing complement to our basic view of all life. (6) It is as if they draw from us the very things that we cannot see within ourselves.
This is not like a 12th House blindness, where our parts residing there are like a trickster’s post-it note stuck on our backs. What we find so hard to accept about the 7th House (and what it says about us) is in our sensation of being totally separate from everyone else. When I look at you, I see someone who is not me. Thus this has been called the House of the “not-self” (7) and in living through the pleasure and pain others can bring, we learn through understanding others how best to relate ourselves.
Since 7th House planets represent qualities we lack or don’t acknowledge in ourselves, the partner compensates, and so we feel “completed” by their proximity in our lives. It follows that the opposition aspect itself is a numerical manifestation of “me here relating to you there.” Ronald Davison states, “A rising planet denotes a quality that we wish to demonstrate to the world that we possess. A setting planet represents a quality that we are asking the world to supply us with.” (8) Accordingly, the “open enemies” of the 7th House damage us, when they are able to capitalize on our obvious vulnerabilities. (9)
Venus signifies romance, with challenging aspects reflecting difficulty communicating love and one’s sense of self-value. By extension this would affect one’s admiration for the Other, as we can only love another as we love ourselves. Mars in relationships shows how one desires, how sexuality is expressed, and what one is looking for in a sexual relationship.
The Sun, Moon, Venus and Mars are the female/male archetypes (or anima/animus) and as such how well they blend together in the chart, says a lot about how comfortable the native will be once challenged by a relationship of any significant length. The elements convey the style with which a person relates himself or herself. Of note in the natal chart is the lack of any particular element, or modality. What is lacking is frequently sought in the Other.
With her Sun accidentally dignified in the 5th House, Alice is much concerned with having a significant purpose in her life. This being the House of children and pleasurable activities, (10) Alice’s central identity is easily associated with her children. She is able to have fun and being playful is part of the joy of being alive. Her Sun shows that she wants a man who is straightforward, values ideals and freedom, is broad-minded with a sense of justice.
Its conjunction to Venus adds an enthusiastic love nature to the mix. The trine from Sun to Uranus describes a freethinker with little respect for authority figures. In the square from Pluto to the Sun there is a foreshadowing…Alice is bound to experience power-struggles with men.
describes how she will give and receive, and ultimately nurture. With a 1st
House Leo Moon, Alice wants attention, she wants to be the leader, loves fun,
and encourages creation. She will give warmly and generously. And she will want
the same kind of attention in return! Her children will be very special to her.
Her Moon is intercepted, to some degree negating the way her Moon can use Leo (11) although as an adult she may now have broken from its constraints. Because the Moon is part of a strong aspect pattern, the lunar part of her character is significant. Including Mars, Jupiter, Chiron as well as her Moon, together they make a fixed and angular Grand square.
With the exception of unaspected Neptune, all other planets in her chart are brought into this pattern. Standing alone, the fixed Grand square, or cross, provides a rock-solid foundation for Alice.
Although linked through aggravating squares and oppositions, the planets involved hold together strongly and make it difficult for anyone to get the better of her. On the one hand it gives Alice a tremendous willpower, on the other she can use its energies in stubbornness and ruthless determination. Mars is retrograde within this pattern, and so its drive may be turned to the inner self (12) ---squared to the Moon, she may find a man’s anger familiar, even to be expected.
Her Ascendant in Cancer projects
empathy and a general air of sympathetic sensitivity when touched. She can
appear to be moody, and as an opposition to the Capricorn Descendant she is
looking for someone to contain her fears. The 7th House “over there” describes
an Other who is emotionally controlled, worldly, and as interested in material
security as is her 10th House Mars in Taurus. This is an ambitious Mars, and a
Capricorn-like mate suits her materialistic aims right down to the ground,
indicated by angle with the Mars trine to the Descendant.
the other hand, in the 5th in Sagittarius and trining Moon/Uranus, wants nothing
better than the excitement of the chase---“The game is afoot!” In love Alice
needs the stimulation this provides, but her personal moral standards play a
large part in her attraction to the Other.
If he puts a foot wrong in terms of her own ethics, she would find her desire for him on the wane. Because the 5th House is not only love affairs but also children, the same ethic applies to them as well---anyone who interferes with her children’s upbringing can incur her wrath (Venus ruling Mars, Mars square Moon and opposing Jupiter in the 4th House of family, Jupiter ruling Venus). And here is part of the dynamics behind Alice’s complaint of Rory undermining her with the children.
Of interest is the complete planetary lack of the element Air in Alice’s chart. In her efforts to communicate, Alice may sense she is missing something that could greatly help her in this respect. Her retrograde Mercury conjunct Saturn does also support the idea that communicating in the way she wants can be a hard business. Unfortunately the implication of miscommunication is misunderstanding of oneself by others. A major attraction for Alice is a relationship with someone who does possess well-tenanted Air signs, and thereby can supply clarity to her thoughts. And as an extra statement underlining this need, Alice’s 7th House contains the whole sign of Aquarius, Chiron accenting attention to that area---and with the Mercury Rx the cosmic “rule of three” is in evidence.
Rory’s relationship needs are in the same planets, altering only the meaning as it relates to the gender implied by the planet and its sign. His Scorpio Sun represents a fixed and secretive core. Power-oriented and resourceful, his inner self holds strongly to his own desires. Placed in the 7th House, relationships take on paramount importance to him. In fact, he cannot truly feel whole without some significant Other. The Scorpio nature of his Sun desires exclusive intimacy and control in relationship; he will resist any attempt made to subjugate him, and is capable of deep resentment when crossed.
His Moon shows his image of Mother, and Rory’s Moon is strongly wired into his chart as part of a Grand trine, with a Kite formed by Neptune opposing the Moon. His inner Mother contains images of a beautiful, unavailable (Neptune opposing, Moon in 12th House) warrior maiden who isn’t afraid to use her great power. In Aries his Moon gives and receives spontaneously, immediately, without thought for the consequences. Uranus in Cancer squares his Moon to the 12th House of the unconscious. His Mother figure contains a free and adventurous spirit who thinks for herself, and perhaps thinks (in the main) only for herself.