Love Handles: Practical Synastry in Action
by Steven Forrest
Order the radically revised and expanded edition of the synastry classic: Skymates: Love, Sex and Evolutionary Astrology, Volume One.
Skymates: Love, Sex and Evolutionary Astrology, Volume One
When is the following declaration the saddest, bitterest thing you’ve ever heard? “I will always be your friend.”
Sweet words, most of the time. Real friendship is precious. But most of us have felt that terrible sting–the word “friend” when it comes out of the mouth of someone with whom we are in love in a romantic, mating way. Being downgraded to “friend” means rejection. Something upon which we have staked a big piece of our lives is taken away. We know it and our lover knows it too.
True friendship is a rare and wonderful thing; I don’t mean to belittle it. We share interests; we celebrate each other’s victories and commiserate in failure and pain. We share values and assumptions. Unspoken understandings abound. Like good jazz players, we even interrupt each other at exactly the right, comfortable moments. You can feel that kind of friendship instantly. You meet someone at a party and there’s an instantaneous sense of being on the same page. Everything a friend does is all right.
Compare that kind of easy-going friendship to the turbulence and emotional complexity of a sane, grown-up sexual relationship. They’re not opposites, but they certainly feel different. We get to our teens and we know the distinction like we know the difference between kissing grandma and kissing in the back seat.
We don’t want erotic contact with everyone we “like;” we usually don’t desire our friends-and if those fires get kindled, we sense we’re about to muddy the water in a serious way. On the other hand, when our lover says, “I will always be your friend,” we know what’s really being said: I don’t want to sleep with you anymore. I don’t want to gaze into your eyes. I want you close but not that close. Goodbye.
So, we are talking about two very different kinds of love: friendship and mating. They sometimes overlap, but knowing the difference helps us keep our lives sorted out. Enter astrology. That happy, easy, schmoozing feeling we get with congenial strangers-what are its astrological correlates? Basically it boils down to easy interaspects: trines, sextiles, certain specific conjunctions. The term “interaspects” originated, as far as I know, with Ken and Joan Negus. Obviously enough, it refers to aspects between two charts-my Venus trines your Sun. It’s a useful word and will undoubtedly become part of the basic semantics of astrological practice. Joan is gone now, but her work will live on in that term.
In determining astrological harmony between people, let’s add another piece to the puzzle: the Seventh House. If my planets, especially softer ones, fall in your Seventh House, there’s usually a friendly connection felt between us. And another: Venus-if there are strong, easy Venus contacts between us, we’ll probably like each other on sight.
Naturally most of what we’ve inherited in the astrological traditions of synastry idealizes harmony between people. The reflexive bottom line is the more easy interaspects, the better. And of course the harder aspects-squares and oppositions-are seen in the opposite way: if you’re an Aries you should marry a Sagittarian or a Leo (the trines) and avoid the Capricorns and Cancers (the squares). But those easy interaspects correlate with friendship a lot more than they correlate with passion. Nowadays people often leave relationships because of a lack of that basic heat in the blood. How many of your friends have withdrawn from a sexual bond because “something was missing?” About a zillion, right? And how often do think you might have heard those words in Kansas in 1910? A lot less frequently.
Times change, and astrologers must sometimes get their noses out of their musty books and pay some attention to the changing world. The realities of what I call marriage in this article are morphing rapidly; our skills must keep up if we are to serve our clients well and relate effectively to their realities and to their values. My intention in these pages is to share some of the techniques and attitudes that have proven most fruitful and relevant for me in the modern astrological relationship counselling context-and to warn you away from some planetary lore that has outlived its usefulness.
A moment ago I said “what I will call marriage” because I want to honor a couple of facts: first, God made a lot of gay folks, and I honor their commitments and name them “marriages” in this article. Second, among heterosexuals, not everyone is equally serious about filling out the government paperwork about their relationship status. When I say “marriage” from now on, I just mean a committed, open-ended sexual bond that has lasted for more than a few dozen consecutive weekends, and which both people pray lasts many more.
Synastry & Self DiscoveryIllustrating how our relationships can uncover parts of ourselves we may be loathe to accept and change, Steven conducts three classes on the astrology of intimacy. Focusing on emotionally central relationships, he brilliantly instructs on natal relationship indicators, classical synastry and the use of the composite chart.
One of the true paradigm shifts happening in our culture is that marriage is becoming optional. It wasn’t always that way. Throughout much of human history, we were agricultural, farm-bound people. If our marriage was a little unsatisfying, the option of getting an apartment across town wasn’t nearly as viable as it is today. A man who left his farm would become a bandit or a beggar; the woman who did the same, a beggar or a prostitute. I oversimplify, of course…but not by much. In a nutshell, throughout much of human history, marriage could be equated with survival. An astrologer asked to evaluate a potential marriage would be working within the constraints of that basic assumption: divorce might mean death.
Where marriage could be equated with survival, there was naturally a great premium placed on “harmony”-at whatever cost it might come in terms of magic, passion, and even communication. Anything, including honesty, that might upset the apple cart was feared…and that was a reasonable attitude when separation was potentially life-threatening. All that mattered was that the two people would not press each others’ buttons in any ways that could endanger that life-preserving stability. Culturally, we’re just coming out from under the thumb of those beliefs.
Harmony has obvious attractions, but let’s look as penetratingly as we can at its dark side. Those “good” aspects we’re trained to value can get awfully sleepy. When we are in harmony with someone, there may be a lot of unconscious collusion in terms of lies upon which we agree…two drunks deciding whether they’re sober enough to make it to the 7-11 for another six- pack before it closes might be in perfect harmony with each other! There are trines and sextiles in action for you! Just as the drunks are about to get into their car and possibly kill themselves or someone else, a friend appears, realizes what’s happening, swipes their car keys and tosses them out on the darkened lawn. It’s a nasty situation; lots of curses and maledictions-and very possibly lives saved. Welcome to the “bad” aspects…a worthless, misleading term we astrologers really need to dump.
A single person is a perfectly viable creature nowadays. Marriage is difficult. Why bother with it? Even our sexual needs can be met in a variety of other ways, generally without serious recriminations in the modern world. Nowadays, unless we are severely constrained by practical considerations or in severe need of psychotherapy, we tend not to choose to remain in a relationship in which “something is missing.”
So what does it take for “something” to be present? In a nutshell, what it takes is a lot of the astrological mechanisms the traditional approaches teach us to fear, loathe, and avoid: “bad” aspects, lots of Pluto action, major Eighth House components.
Go back in your memory banks and think of a relationship that didn’t work out. It was passionate, intense, and full of sacred sexuality. You were sure your life would unfold on a loftier level from that first kiss onward; you were destined to be together. And six months later: poof. Any trouble relating to this tale? I didn’t think so. Now analyze that relationship from a traditional astrological point of view. Almost guaranteed, you can do an effective post- mortem….”Ah, yes. Look at that. Her nasty, psychotic Pluto was square my poor, innocent Venus,” et cetera. A close analysis of the configuration will yield a very precise understanding of what went wrong-but it will lie to you with great authority too! It entirely ignores the higher evolutionary possibilities implied in that configuration. Even more dramatically, that kind of astrological analysis fails miserably in accounting for that feeling of sacred passion, however transitory it might have been.
If your Pluto squares my Venus, you probably have the capacity to see right through any smarmy Venus games I might play. Maybe my sweet manipulations don’t work with you; maybe my feather-smoothing diplomacy is as transparent as window glass. Maybe, with you, I just can’t hide. Maybe you confront me about that…and of course, as a result, maybe I feel that you are “always on my case,” that you’ve “appointed yourself my psychologist,” that your “need for power and control” squelches my sexuality-all the usual interpretations of the configuration. And maybe the truth behind those words sinks our romantic ship, just as the fortuneteller would predict. But maybe, just maybe, I listen to you. You plutonify my Venus, bringing up into my conscious awareness certain slippery, defensive games I play. Maybe I have grace enough in myself, and trust you enough, to let that humble realization happen. Maybe I become a better person for it.
Maybe what I am really saying is that my soul grows because of your impact on me.
“Something is missing.” What does that mean? Lots of people would immediately think about sexual passion. They’re right. But what sustains sexual passion? Lord knows it’s easy enough to turn it on! But lasting passion-there’s the Holy Grail. My premise, based on my experience counselling modern people, is that sexual passion is a function of spiritual passion, at least after the first few weeks. What’s the half-life of hormones? Not long. And spiritual passion is sustained by shared spiritual growth, which in turn is more a function of the ways we press each other to grow (hard aspects) than it is a function of the ways we quietly collude in denial, sleepiness, and endless television (easy aspects).
I really want to emphasize that what I mean by “shared spiritual growth” has little to do with sharing belief-systems or philosophies, and it has zero to do with any kind of airy “Flight- into-Light.” Relationships based on that bank of sand last about a month, and then the two lovers piously declare that “their work together is now finished.” What I am talking about is the gutsy, humbling work of revealing-intentionally or otherwise-all our warts and wounds, and slowly unravelling them together…slowly becoming saner and wiser together. Without that shared journey, without that deeper nakedness, spiritual passion does not exist, and sexual passion dissipates no matter how fiery and irresistible it may have been initially. “Something is missing.”
Let’s keep our feet on the ground, though. If you are in a committed relationship, how many “growth experiences” do you actually want to face in any given week? Common sense: soul-growth is exhausting work, and a little goes a long way. We need some trines and sextiles and happy conjunctions between us, just to be able to deal with everyday reality together.
Now, stretch it out a little: how many growth experiences are appropriate in a given year? A given decade? Do you really want perfect, silent, nothing-happening peace forever with your partner? “Pass the remote control, honey.” Remember: that kind of peace comes at the price of sleepiness, collusion, and shared blindness-unless you are already doing excellent work with lepers.
To me, in the realities of the astrological counselling room, there are two immutable premises:
There is no manner of astrological interaction between two people that is so inherently sweet that enough selfishness, confusion about sex, or immaturity cannot turn it sour.
There is no manner of astrological interaction between two people that is so inherently bitter that enough patience, devotion, and humility can not only make it last, but make it something precious to both people.
Underneath those overriding principles, what I like to see when two people are contemplating a commitment is a lot of basic harmony and agreement-especially some significant conjunctions, trines, and sextiles among those three absolute building blocks in the astrological chart: The Sun, the Moon, and the Ascendent. That really helps people “get along.” Let me quickly add that I don’t mind seeing some significant squares, oppositions, quincunxes or sesquiquadrates among those three either-that’s just grist for the evolutionary mill. We need some of both-sleepy peace and lively tension.
One observation that would scare me at this very fundamental stage of analysis would be no major, Ptolemaic aspects among the two sets of Suns, Moons and Ascendents. The old horary dictum “No aspects, no action” applies quite reliably in synastry work, especially there in the “primal triad.” Lots of different kinds of relationships work, but I can’t think of a deeper challenge than a lack of Ptolemaic interaspects among those three points. That would be a lot like sleeping with somebody from another planet. It represents not so much conflict as a lack of communication, engagement, and energy.
Love and Mischief
Moving out beyond Sun, Moon and Ascendant and considering all the various planetary aspects, I would say that a good rule of thumb in synastry is the more aspects there are between two people, the more “glue” holds the relationship together, for good or for ill. I am referring here to aspects in general, not just the traditional “good” ones. Even the harder aspects are “glue”-just a more demanding, more passionate kind. My sense is that when we interact socially with people with whom we just don’t have much going on aspectually, we tend mostly to make pleasant tribal mouth noises and quickly move on to more interesting fields of energy. If we wind up in bed, or worse, with someone like that, it’s the triumph of the illusions created by simple lust or psychological projection over attention to our own hearts, souls, and senses. Mostly, though, those relationships simply don’t occur. Ram Dass commented that our sexual centers of perception divide the world into “the desirable,” the “competition for those who are desirable,” and the “irrelevant.” People with whom we don’t have much aspectual interaction are basically the “irrelevant,” even if they are easy to look at.
Perspective: What I am writing about here, as I have said, is my own experience in the counselling room. I’ve seen countless astrologically-harmonious couples separate, and I’ve seen some marriages last lifetimes where a fortuneteller might have been very pessimistic about their prospects. But people self-select for astrological counsel; they are not the general population. I suppose that if I were trying to come up with statistical paradigms for predicting simple stability, and nothing more, in marriage across the human spectrum, I’d go with the old way of thinking: give me tons of trines and sextiles, tons of harmony. Then they can sit peacefully in front of the television together, maybe for decades, and not bother each other very much. But for the kinds of human beings who actually help me pay my bills, that kind of sleepy collusion is not what they’re after. These are generally more dynamic, growth-oriented people-or they wouldn’t be there in my office! Demonstrably, they’ll intervene in their own lives, and they’ll often leave relationships that aren’t going anywhere. With these kinds of people, I focus a lot of attention on the harder interaspects between them. I try to be realistic; I tell them that there are ways they may never understand each other. I emphasize that this kind of frustration isn’t so bad-if they handle it right, it will keep them alert. I only offer to try to help untangle the tangled lines of misunderstanding. I’ll try to get Jill to honor the evolutionary reasons behind Jack’s need for periodic emotional withdrawl; I’ll support Jack in respecting Jill’s need to probe into his inner life. I’ll try to generate a kind of objective compassion in each toward the other. But I’ll never try to get either to compromise their basic natures-that I would frame as a crime against the human spirit.
Even with the easier aspects, I try not to be passive. “Oh this is beautiful” may be an encouraging remark, but it doesn’t go very far in terms of specific helpfulness. Say Jill has Jupiter in Sagittarius in her Ninth House. It trines Jack’s Fifth House Aries Sun. Everything else being equal, there is a fair degree of adventuresomeness in each of them. They’ll sense their energetic harmony ten seconds after they meet; they’ll smile-unconsciously anticipating that potential trip to India they’ll take together in nine years.
Now, maybe eight years later they come to me for a synastry reading. My job is to remind them to book that trip to India! Maybe in the swamp of daily life, they got bogged down in the short view and forgot about it. They’ve neglected what feeds them as a couple. They need a little reminder about how journeys and shared adventures nourish the good stuff that’s at the heart of their purpose together.
The point is that even the “easy” aspects require care and feeding if they are going to develop into everything they can be-remember: their dark side is sleepiness. The treasure may be in the back yard, but they still have to dig it up.
I’ve been speaking categorically of “easy” and “hard” aspects. Basically, by “easy” I mean trines and sextiles. By “hard,” I mean squares and oppositions. We’ll speak of the minor aspects in a moment, but right now we need to reckon with the single most important aspect of all: the conjunction. It follows its own separate set of laws, and it doesn’t fit readily into an “easy” or “hard” box the way the others do. Here’s a good way to conceptualize it:
Some planets naturally feel “soft:” The Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Neptune.
Some naturally feel “hard:” The Sun, Mars, Saturn, Uranus, Pluto.
Mercury, as usual, seems to be its own special case. Sometimes it feels “hard,” especially when it’s contacting a hard planet. Other times it feels “soft,” especially when linked to a softer planet.
Now, with conjunctions, the rule is simple. Conjunctions between a hard and a soft planet are “hard,” while conjunctions between two “soft” planets or two “hard” ones are easy. It’s pretty intuitive really. The Moon likes Neptune-if your Moon conjuncts my Neptune, that generally feels easy and comfortable…just remember that “easy” doesn’t mean “good.” We could collude like crazy on our emotional illusions until the romantic card castle fell down. But we could also feel a flowing, natural spiritual rapport, an easy Moon-Neptune feeling of knowing each other psychically and psychologically, even without words. Real or illusory, it feels good.
Parallel interactions happen when your Mars conjuncts my Uranus. That’s “hard to hard,” and while the fireworks can be spectacular, there’s a kind of gritty comrades-in-arms feeling that arises. Mars and Uranus understand each pretty well; their rough edges get along. We “fight well,” which is a precious skill in the real world of grown-up intimacy.
If my Moon aligns with your Mars-“soft to hard”-that’s a different kettle of fish. My sensitivities and emotional needs (Moon) are exposed to all your jagged edges (Mars.) Now, maybe that does them a world of good! Maybe you press me, wittingly or unwittingly, to be more assertive about what I want and need. You are martializing my Moon. From an evolutionary perspective, it may be a very beautiful thing, and it’s the astrologer’s task to emphasize and support that possibility. But Mars-Moon interaspects still often don’t feel very good. Maybe I project onto you the idea that you are “the heavy,” while you project onto me the idea that I am “a wimp.” Maybe, according to you, I’m always “overreacting,” while, according to me, you are always “arguing” or “teasing.”
Mercury blends with anything-best to apply our “easy aspect” logic to any interaspectual conjunctions involving Mercury.
I spoke of you martializing my Moon. Earlier I used an example of you plutonifying my Venus. My wife, Jodie Forrest, and I introduced this language in 1989 in our book Skymates: The Astrology of Love, Sex, and Intimacy. The words sound funny, but we’ve found them to be useful tools for conceptualizing the actual energy-transactions that occur in a relationship. The key is to realize that any interaspect is a two-way street: you do something to me and I do something back to you. If your Sun makes any aspect to my Moon-a classic and common synastry connection-then you solarize my Moon while I lunarize your Sun. You press my emotional needs into active expression, while I nourish and support your pride, self-image, and confidence. Skymates, by the way, is currently out of print, but between the Bantam edition and the ACS edition, there are a lot of them around. Jodie and I are currently re-writing the book and hope to have a new edition out by the middle of 2001.
These “martializing” or “plutonifying” energetic transactions apply regardless of the specific nature of the interaspect-it doesn’t matter if it’s a square or a trine; mercurialization is still mercurialization. The only difference is that if it’s an easy aspect, then we both like the process, while if it’s a hard aspect we feel more stressed by it-and maybe more passionate and alert about each other in the long run.
Always, regardless of the technical interactions between the charts, we must recognize that, from an astrological perspective, any relationship can potentially be made to work. My feeling is that once a couple is committed to trying, the astrologer should be committed to helping them. I feel ill and ashamed for us all when I hear clients tell me something like, “the other astrologer told us our marriage was basically impossible.” Still, if I had to pick an “ideal,” I’d lean toward a lot of major Ptolemaic aspects, with an emphasis on Sun-Moon-Ascendent contacts. I’d put them in a mix of about two-thirds “easy” interaspectual transactions and one- third “hard” ones. That provides plenty of the basic glue that holds people together, plus, through the easy aspects, a real sense of friendship and comfort-and enough evolutionary rocket fuel to keep a sense of “process” alive. That’s the gift of the harder aspects. In the world we seem to be entering, that’s the formula that works most often in my experience.
Jodie and I went into a lot more detail about all this in Skymates, but here are some key concepts for the various interaspectual transactions. A couple of caveats: In all these thumbnail sketches, I’m leaving out the specific context of the planets in each person’s birthchart, which is the eternal curse of any “cookbook” approach. To save space, I’m also blithely neglecting the darker possibilities, and focussing on the higher intentions of the interaspect.
If I solarize a planet in your chart, then I press it to emerge energetically, vividly, and actively in your life.
If I lunarize a planet in your chart, then I nourish and support it, and render it moodier and more aware of its needs.
If I mercurialize a planet in your chart, then I press it to speak, to stretch, to gather more information, to think about itself, and to articulate its nature.
If I venusify a planet in your chart, then I warm it, seduce it, and induce in it a desire to connect with me and exchange energy with me. I may also “civilize” it, and encourage it to beautify itself.
If I martialize a planet in your chart, then I press it toward courage and assertiveness, also bringing out whatever anger or frustration it may contain.
If I jovialize a planet in your chart, then I encourage and support it, cheerleading it on toward wider horizons, a willingness to take risks, and more faith in itself.
If I saturnize a planet in your chart, then I invite it to mature and to face reality squarely. I ask it to discipline itself, to make hard choices decisively, and to bring its intentions into concrete manifestation.
If I uranize a planet in your chart, then I press it toward individuation, toward rebellion against “tribal” mythology, and toward free-spirited experimentation.
If I neptunify a planet in your chart, then I enchant and mesmerize it, softening it and filling it with inspiration, spiritual renewal, and imaginative imagery.
If I plutonify a planet in your chart, then I trigger the emergence of unconscious or wounded material connected with it, challenging it to grow and to implement the soul’s healing intentions.
This language also helps codify our understanding of House Transpositions as well. If, for example, my Neptune falls in your Tenth House, I’ll have a neptunifying impact upon your career. That may be a big deal, or a very minor part of the picture, depending on two factors: a) the strength of my natal Neptune, and b) the importance of career to you, as reflected in your birthchart. The interaction would also be strengthened enormously if my Neptune made some serious aspects to your natal planets, especially a conjunction with a Tenth House planet of yours, or a vigorous aspect to the ruler of your Midheaven.
Some people get touchy about the term “minor aspects.” I can see why; those aspects can be powerful, especially the quincunx. I concentrate more on the major Ptolemaic aspects in my actual work, though. They carry so much energy. My time with a couple is limited so I want to focus on the most important issues, which are generally indicated not only more by major than by minor aspects, by also by only the closest major aspects. I won’t even have time to speak of all the squares and sextiles, so I tend not to bother much in practice with the semi-squares, bi- noviles, and sesquiquadrates. That doesn’t mean they’re not interesting and useful; they just don’t fit very well into the context of a one-shot, two-hour session, which is how I work most of the time. If you are drawn to work with the minors, generally I’d say treat them as “hard” aspects and these guidelines should translate effectively.
Classically, the Seventh House is the “House of Marriage.” A very common correlate of relationship is to see one person’s planets, especially the Sun, Moon, or Ascendent, falling in the other person’s Seventh House. It’s important not to be overly caught up in the dying notions of “malefic” or “benefic” planets in this regard-my Saturn falling in your Seventh House doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be cold or distant, or that I will abandon you. It might mean I’ll offer you a serious, mature, growth-oriented commitment. It really depends upon how consciously I am responding to my own Saturn issues, and you can’t ever see that in a birthchart. Similarly, while my Venus falling in your Seventh House can certainly suggest a wonderfully tender and romantic connection, it can also mean that I’ll manipulate and seduce you.
Love’s Three Faces – Houses 5, 7, & 8
Deep lifetime bonding, passing love affairs, emotional epiphanies and emotional disasters—how can we sort them out? Astrology can help! Houses Five, Seven, and Eight carry the DNA of each of these intimate patterns. Knowledge of the exact energies they represent in you can help you see through the hormonal fog. They can assist you in understanding what kinds of relationships are right for you and what kinds are toxic, however tempting they might be. They can define your natural mate. They can help you know which of your needs you can safely compromise and what needs are essential to your soul and thus non-negotiable.
Even though the Seventh House is still reflexively associated with relationship by most astrologers, all the other Houses are relevant-we’re talking about a connection between two human wholenesses, after all. Still, I’d encourage you to pay particular attention to the Eighth House, especially between people who are moving into the newer styles of intimacy where the richness and spiritual relevance of the connection means more than blind endurance. The Seventh House really refers to partnerships in general and the grease it takes to keep them afloat. The Eighth brings in the Plutonian themes of deep, shared inner work and psychological intensity. It’s also more connected with the bonding dimensions of sexuality than any other House-if you have a planet there in your own natal chart it will very reliably describe the kinds of people with whom you are likely to have the deepest and most compellingly instinctual sense that you are “supposed to be together.” It’s about those elusive sexual terms-chemistry and electricity-which no one can satisfactorily define but which everyone recognizes, usually from across a crowded room.
The Fifth House is often trivialized as the “House of Love Affairs.” Planets there in your natal chart actually correlate with people in your life with whom there is a feeling of “business that needs to be finished.” It’s easiest for me to make sense of that perception in evolutionary, reincarnational terms. If you have Neptune in your natal Fifth House, you may really need to claim something back from a person who is an unreliable visionary romantic (Neptune). You may need to release him or just let her go, and that of course is sometimes easier said than done. It’s unfinished business from the karmic past, in my view. With Mercury there in your birthchart, the person with whom you’ve got the unfinished business may be a very good talker. With Mars, someone whose anger is unresolved. You probably get the idea-just think of the darker, more seductive possibilities connected with each planet, and you’ll be on the right track.
Those kinds of transpersonal, karmic themes emerge very clearly in interaspectual contacts involving the Nodes of the Moon as well. Reincarnation and the larger metaphysical, evolutionary background against which the astrological story unfolds is a vast subject, really too big to fit into the framework of this article. The best books I can recommend to get you going in that domain are Jeffrey Wolf Green’s classic, Pluto: The Evolutionary Journey of the Soul Through Relationships, and the new book he and I wrote together, Measuring the Night: Evolutionary Astrology and the Keys to the Soul, Volume One. By the way, Volume Two of that work will be available in a few months. It takes the material even further. While I’m plugging books, I was very impressed with the groundedness, style, and wisdom of Terry Lamb’s recent synastry book, Born to be Together, which is published by Hay House.
The Fourth House is one of the most basic-and most neglected-parts of the synastry puzzle. Most of us learn in our first astrology class that it’s the “House of the Home.” We then use it to speak of our physical dwelling places, our families of origin, and our interior psychological worlds. All that is valid, but let’s not leave out the notion that the pot of gold at the end of love’s rainbow is a stable, happy bond-a sense of “home,” created, proven, maintained, and trusted, with a beloved partner. That’s a Fourth House reality. Planets there in your own chart indicate your needs and possibly your baggage in that department. If, for example, you have Venus in the Fourth House, then the kind of home that will work for you is one permeated by a peaceful, aesthetic Venusian spirit. That puts some constraints on how satisfied you’ll be living with someone who’s got Sun conjunct Uranus in Gemini, square Mars, and five planets jumping for thermonuclear joy in Sagittarius!
If someone transposes a lot of their own planets into your Fourth House, he or she is likely to fill you with deep, comfortable feelings of “family.” There’s just an inexplicable “familiarity” there. Mutual Fourth House transpositions are common between people who go the distance with each other, and that bedrock astrological fact seems to have disappeared from the more generic synastry textbooks. Probably it’s a casualty of our pan-cultural loss of those precious psychological crown jewels-our Fourth House sense of community, kinship, and absolute commitment to each other.
One more comment: of all the relationship Houses, I’d say the Fourth is probably the most “adult.” I say that because it relates to the stage of relationship where it would be appropriate to consider bringing new life into the world. In a society where “adult” has come to mean “visible genitals,” we’ve got some collective healing to do in that department. I like to think of astrologers as leading rather than following in that great enterprise.
One final comment: a critical link in the synastry chain is the composite chart. There are a variety of ways of calculating them. The one that works best for me is based on the midpoints of the planets: halfway between my Sun and your Sun is our composite Sun, and so on. I like to use the latitude of the place where the relationship started, rather than the current residence of the couple. I’m also very open to the idea of just taking the midpoints of all the House cusps, which is another popular technique.
Composite charts are a big subject, and probably rate a separate article. Basically you interpret them in exactly the same manner as you would interpret a natal chart, except you remember that you are discussing the care and feeding of the relationship as a whole. Sometimes two introverts come together and begin throwing loud parties; sometimes two extroverts come together and move to a cabin in Alaska. These are not laws of the universe, only possibilities within the universe. The Composite chart gets at all that, helping us understand what kinds of shared experiences help keep the couple vital and alive-and that might be different from what they need as individuals.
For some deeper perspectives on the Composite chart, I’d encourage you to find a copy of Jodie’s and my Skymates. To dive into the evolutionary and reincarnational dimensions of the Composite, I’d again steer you toward Volume Two of Jeffrey Wolf Green’s Pluto series.
In closing, I’d like to affirm that the astrologer’s task as a practitioner of synastry isn’t to judge anyone’s relationships or to prophesy about their longevity. Our task is to read the symbols honestly, to speak of love’s highest possibilities and encourage the couple to realize them, all the while warning them about the darker places that misunderstanding can breed.
After that, we make no disempowering predictions; instead we stand back in a spirit of respectful, compassionate good will and pray for the ancient miracle-lasting, living human love…the engine that drives the evolution of our souls.
Learn more about relationship astrology with the following resources:
- Skymates Book 1 on Synastry
- Skymates Book 2 on Composite Charts
- Love and Mischief Relationship Astrology Workshop
- Composite Chart Lecture
- Advanced Composite Chart Workshop