For your pleasure, allow me to present the fourth and final installment of my month-long look at astrology and relationships.
I began three weeks ago by pointing out the fundamental truth necessary for beginning any issue of serious astrological inquiry, which is that each of us is far more complex than our Sun sign's generalized characteristics reveals. In order to understand our relationship to relationships using astrologywhat we seek in a partner and how we act with said partnerwe must look at our entire birthchart if we hope to get any information beyond the most superficial.
Two weeks ago, I raised the psychological concept of projection, the idea that we unconsciously use our relationships with other people to externalize our own inner conflicts, setting up partners to play roles that mirror parts of ourselves with which we are less comfortable. Astrologically speaking, this projection usually plays out through our drawing partners with placements that match up with signs or planets in our charts that beg greater expression than we have been able to provide on our own.
Then, last week I explained what's behind pop-astrologers' rules of compatibility, unpacking the methods they use to decide which signs create chemistry with which other signs, and who should stay away from whom. Following a few simple steps is all it takes to figure out astro-compatibility yourselfthat is, if you're willing to overlook that everyone looks for different things in a relationship, an obvious notion that essentially dismantles any hope that the answer to which individuals belong together is a quick and easy one.
Now I return to my original premise, that astrology is only truly useful in providing us with relationship help if we go beyond simple Sun-signs and examine the birthchart as a whole. Once we've got a chart in front of us, astrology has a whole bunch of insights to provide when it comes to an individual's desires, behaviors and attitudes in relation to relationships. There are different planets to watch, houses to explore, signs to be aware of, and a complex interrelationship between all these factors, painting a complex picture of our complex relationship lives. After all, real astrology is not quick and easy, but is sophisticated enough to address our sophisticated selves in a true way. Let me illustrate with a few summarized examples of how a skilled astrologer might approach the issue of relationships when interpreting a chart.
It's not surprising that Mars and Venus are two planets of great interest when it comes to understanding our ideas about relationships. The glyphs representing Mars and Venus are the same as those widely used as the male and female symbols (circle with arrow pointing up at an angle, circle with cross coming down), and some psychologist guy got real rich and famous by informing us that men are from Mars and women are from Venus and that's why we're all messed up.
Well, the astrological truth is that all of us have both Mars and Venus somewhere in our chartsin a sign, in a house, and possibly in some dynamic aspect to another planet or planets. And these placements can tell us a lot about the types of people we attract in our lives and the types of people who are attracted to us (alas, not always the same).
Rather than think of Mars and Venus as "male" and "female" in any traditional sense, I prefer to imagine these two planets as our projective and receptive selves, as if each of us is a battery with a positive terminal (Mars) and a negative terminal (Venus). Mars represents the attitude and action with which we go out into the world to get what we want and do what we do, our physical drives and our fight-or-flight instincts in conflict. Venus symbolizes what we have affection and love for in the world and how we express it, our softer charming side and our ability to appreciate beauty and art in their various forms.
The sign and house placements of each tell us about how the Venusian yin and the Martian yang play out in our livesfor instance, Mars in Capricorn in the third, acting with practical strategy and ambition to gather lots of different tidbits of information and disseminate them articulately and accordingly, or Venus in Aquarius in the twelfth house, with its romanticized appreciation for intelligent folks with unusual perspectives that help to explain the most mysterious and psychically charged areas of experience. Whether Mars and Venus in a chart make easy or challenging aspects to each other or to other planets can demonstrate whether these urges are in concordance or conflict with each other or other parts of ourselves.
There are also certain houses in a chart that uncover how an individual is likely to behave in relationships. Traditionally, the seventh house symbolizes the way we act in one-on-one relationships, not merely in romances but in any partnership between two individuals who face each other as equals (i.e., business partners, best friends, worst enemies, etc.). But we also look to the fifth house to signify how we give and exchange love as a creative expression of ourselves, which says a lot about how we act when we first become enamored with someone, before the practicalities of establishing and maintaining a relationship come into play. And the eighth house tells us about the deepest psychological levels of exchange that occur when we achieve intimacy in a relationship, such as the merging of finances and sex (i.e., the merging of flesh).
We can glean much information by examining if there are any planets located in these houses, what zodiac signs lie on their cusps, where the ruling planets of these signs fall, and what the character of the interrelation between all these planets and houses are. Yes, this is a lot of stuff to look atwhich is why it seems so silly, in light of the way real astrology works, to seek simple answers to complex questions.
Don't even get me started trying to explain, in this limited space, how the woman with a Mars in Pisces in the fifth squaring Mercury in Gemini in the seventh is going to act in a relationship. (It's likely that she loves passionately and romantically, though in a somewhat confused and unsure fashion, with the potential to annihilate personal boundaries along the way. And forget expecting her to explain her behavior with a single answer, though she'll be happy to tell you a bunch of different things about how she thinks she's feeling at any given moment.) But if all we knew was that her Sun was in Virgo (an energy that acts in challenging aspect to everything else we just said about her), we could easily lead her to an inappropriate mate.
Of course, astrologers have even more to say if we are given the opportunity to look at the two charts of partners together, a method of astrology known as synastry. Then, not only do we have access to all the information in each chart, which tells us about how each individual is likely to act in the relationship, we also get to examine how these placements play off each other.
When two people have a connection, it is almost guaranteed that their charts also show connectionsfor instance, one person's Venus might be located in the same or complementary part of the zodiac as the other's Mars. The nature of the two planets involved, their sign and house placements, and the type of connection (i.e., aspect) between them gives us a good description of which parts of each individual's personalities are drawn to each other. Using synastry, we characterize the pair's easy opportunities for chemistry and compatibility (which, incidentally, can also lead to inertia and laziness) and the more challenging areas of potential conflict (and consequently the ways in which they might learn from each other and grow together).
I hope this month's extended look at astrology and relationships helps to demystify some of what is involved when a serious astrologer sets out to provide assistance to clients interested in gaining more insight into what makes them tick with regards to relationships. I've certainly given my best shot at refuting any easy notion of figuring out compatibility based on overly simplistic formulas that dictate, for example, Leos belong with Libras but should stay away from Scorpios.
And, in case you've forgotten, let me remind you that I am always available for personal consultations, either in person (in San Francisco) or via phone, to assist you in learning more about your relationship with relationships, or any other area of your life in which you seek a greater degree of self-awareness. I'm happy to help. After all, it's my job.