The signs of the Zodiac come in pairs of opposites – Aries-Libra, Taurus-Scorpio and so on. There is a tension between these opposites in astrology – they are, after all, ‘opposite’ – but also a similarity, a compatibility. This is because the elements are compatible: an opposition is either between Earth and Water, or Air and Fire.
The aspect that really is difficult is the square, or 90 degrees. This is between Earth or Water on the one hand, and Air or Fire on the other, and these pairs find it much harder to speak to each other. Earth and Water are relatively static elements, they get their nature from what they ARE, whereas Air and Fire are always moving, they get their nature from WHERE THEY ARE GOING.
Squares are also not very visible, whereas an opposition often comes at us from ‘out there’: that person trying to dominate us could well be the Pluto end of our Sun opposite Pluto, and in that way, once we have cottoned on to what’s happening, we get to know ourselves, claim ourselves. The square may also come at us from ‘out there’, in fact it probably will because the world usually holds up a mirror to our complexes and difficult bits. But it won’t usually be so obvious. It’s like a knife in the side that we can’t quite turn round and see.
If we have Sun square Pluto, it could be there is this ongoing not standing up for ourselves, not trusting our own judgement, but it may not be so clear what it is that our sense of dissatisfaction, our unease, is based on. Like we haven’t quite found our own life and don't know why.
Or say you have Venus-Neptune: the opposition may come at you in the form of a partner who is not who they seem, but who appealed to a particular yearning in you, and eventually it may become really obvious they are not who they appeared to be, and you can either feel betrayed or you can learn from it, develop your judgement of people, find within what you were seeking outwardly in the Other.
But the square is less obvious, Neptune is coming at you from an element that your Venus doesn’t understand. Again there may be the realisation, maybe after many years, that the other person is different to what you thought, but it’s not like they are the opposite of what you thought: it’s not that they presented themselves as rich and you find out they are not. That would be the opposition. It’s more sideways than that. If you have Venus in Fire and Neptune in Water, then it may take you a long time to clock the emotional nature of the other person, because what you tend to see is their Fire – their enthusiasm, their adventurousness, their sense of direction. And being Fire, you take it at face value, you don’t see maybe the insecurity, the need to prove something, the watery emotional element, that is also driving them. And then eventually you do see it, and seeing that element in them, you see it better in yourself.
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But I began with the signs as pairs of opposites. They are axes, 6 axes that make up the Zodiac. Each pair represents a completion, the kind of completion that the natives of those signs are seeking in their lives. If, for example, you are Aquarius, then you need to find the qualities of Leo – as well as becoming a fully fledged Aquarian.
Aries-Libra is self and other. What is brilliant about Aries is those new-born visionary ideas. But Aries need to take on the views and desires of others as well, which is Libra. An argument for an Aries is not a debate, an exchange of views and perhaps modifying one’s own: it is about proving to the other person why they are wrong, it can feel very important to the Aries to correct this wrongness in the other person. And Aries needs to understand that nothing is black and white and to qualify those simplistic judgements of other people.
Similarly Libra needs to come down with a definite viewpoint, this is what I think, and stick to it – after, of course, a period of weighing things up, and of course with qualifications to what they think. And it's not just a viewpoint, it's MY view, it's what I think, I am personally involved. And the same with what they want, to stop dithering, to locate that place in themselves that WANTS and honour it instead of feeling it is selfish. And a willingness to judge people, which martial Aries has no problem doing, rather than trying to be nice about everyone, giving people the benefit of the doubt when really there is no doubt, which is just as wrong-headed as Aries' quickness to judge.
Taurus-Scorpio is the axis of desire. This is desire in the sense of ownership, possession, not just something you happen to want to do. And for a Taurus, this can make them superficial. On the one hand, they experience a deep joy in life, in simply being alive and part of the natural world. But like the bull, as long as they have their herd and their field, then they can be quite happy spending their life grazing – with the odd bit of mating thrown in for good measure. What they need is Scorpio, looking beneath the surface of things, feeling the power and truth of their passions, and living from that.
Whereas Scorpions need to give themselves a break in order to be human. No one can stand that level of intensity all the time, you’ll end up suspicious and paranoid and turned in. The simple pleasures of Taurus are what they need, the sense that it is simply good to be alive.
Gemini-Sagittarius is the axis of learning, of information vs knowledge. Sagittarians, in their quest for big, meaningful ideas, don’t necessarily pay attention to facts, to information. I know one Sagittarian who will believe just about anything as long as it is ‘far-out’ and subversive of the government. She is otherwise intelligent.
And similarly Geminians, with their magpie minds, entranced by tinsel, all these bits of information, need to think, to reflect on what it all means, what it is that gives their life a sense of meaning.
We live, incidentally, in a Gemini Age: the Neptune-Pluto conjunction of 1891 was in Gemini, as was the conjunction 400 years before that. The progress of Science over the last 500 years represents the triumph of fact over meaning.
Cancer-Capricorn is the axis of conservatism and of home vs world. Security is important to both these signs – for Cancer, it is family and country, for Capricorn it is one’s standing in the world. Cancer on its own can be hobbit-like, and like Bilbo needs not just a Sagittarian adventure, but the Capricornian testing of abilities in the world – and yes, Bilbo proved to be a world-class burglar. Capricorn on its own can be very successful in the world, but hard-hearted and domestically dysfunctional. The English boarding school system, by removing the Cancer element from the age of 7 or 8, often produces this type. Cancer-Capricorn is like roots and branches, and we need both.
Leo-Aquarius is the axis of the individual and society. Aquarians often stand out as the individuals of the Zodiac because they are quirky, but actually it is the Leos who have the stronger sense of their own unique gifts. These need to be brought into relationship with the people around them. In particular, because Leos experience themselves as unique individuals, they can be deeply comfortable in their own skins, and almost by osmosis others come to feel the same about themselves, that yes you don’t need to worry about conforming, you can just be who you are. This is the light that Leo famously sheds, the light of individuality, but it needs that Aquarian connectedness to do so.
Aquarians are the sign that are not comfortable in their own skins. They feel strongly connected to society and wish to benefit it, but they also struggle to feel separate from that, they feel the call of Leo, that is the grit in the oyster for Aquarians. The Sun is in detriment in Aquarius, and perhaps this is why. As a result, particularly when younger, they rebel. The task for Aquarians is to feel at ease with who they are, otherwise people won’t be convinced by all their great ideas for improving things.
Virgo-Pisces is the axis of Service, and of Order vs Chaos. With Virgo, the service element is considered and particular, it is directed towards a person or cause they feel is worthy and useful. But that critical faculty can also be narrow, dividing people into worthy and unworthy, and this is where Virgo needs the unconditional love of Pisces. Pisces has a wonderful compassionate quality that’s very nice to be around, but they can also be anybody’s fool, and they need to learn, often the hard way, to exercise discernment with other people.
These 2 signs also represent 2 very different ways of going about things: Virgos plan, they are scientific, they do things according to cause and effect. If I want to eat, I need to work. Pisces simply manifests, they know that if they just trust, food will appear on the table. Pisces has no will of its own, it trusts in God’s Will, and Pisces’ job in this respect is to land on the planet, to take earthly as well as heavenly responsibility for their lives. Virgoans needs to relax, to let events unfold of their own accord, to trust that things can be OK even if they’re not all planned in advance, that in fact you can get in the way of unthought-of possibilities if you try and have it all sewn up. "Trust in God and keep your camel tethered." That is Virgo-Pisces.