Cosmic Talk
October 1998: Synastry

Greetings friends,

The most frequent type of question I receive in emails from those of you out in cyberspace, are questions about relationship and compatibility.  Therefore, I felt you might be interested in hearing more on this topic.  Many of you are aware of the guidelines surrounding sun sign compatibility but have also discovered that determining true compatibility involves much more than just your sun signs!  Maybe you're a Taurus who has had no luck at all with Virgo's or Capricorn's despite the fact that sun sign astrology dictates that those are the signs you would be most compatible with.  So, what gives?  That's what we'll discover in this discussion!

First, let me define the term *synastry*  as it is used by most astrologers.  Synastry is the branch of astrology that examines what happens when two charts interact.  This involves much more than just the examination of  two people's sun signs.  In determining compatibility, an astrologer takes into consideration the whole astrology chart of each person individually and then examines how the two charts interact with each other.   The sun sign, while integral since it represents the primary identity, does not alone determine compatibility with another chart!  All of the astrological symbology contained within both charts needs to be taken into consideration in order to reveal all of the facets of the individuals as well as the relationship between them.  With the astrological technique of synastry, an astrologer is able to identify the hopes and motives, the fears and doubts, the similarities and differences, and the reality and illusions of a relationship between two people.  Because nothing so profoundly affects our lives as does the relationships we have with others, this is a very vital aspect of the astrological discipline and one that needs to be approached with compassion, an open mind and thoroughness.  Synastry is complex at times.  But so are we, life and love sometimes!

I feel that there are three steps essential to synastry: 1) Understand each person as an individual, 2) Understand how the two birth charts interact, and 3) Understand the chart that represents the entity that is the couple (called the Composite Chart).

It is amazing how often this most important step is overlooked.  All three steps are essential, and this one provides the foundation for the synastric interpretation.  The truth is, relationships mean different things to different people.  It's an obvious truth given the great diversity in individual needs, motivations, beliefs, and expectations.  These very things can be identified in one's natal birth chart, and just as importantly, so can one's capacity for meaningful relationships.  And that is why you look at the individual charts first, before you ever begin to look at how two individual charts interact with each other.

The way you want to look at each of the individual birth charts is to ask yourself questions with a focus on relational issues: Who is this person?  What does he need emotionally to feel comfortable and be at his best?  What is attractive to her?  How much privacy does he need?  What are her fears?  How passionate is he?  Understand each person without any reference to the other and examine the chart with a focus on how this person views relationships.  For example, he has Saturn in the seventh, so he approaches relationships with a tremendous sense of responsibility and is not likely to take his commitments lightly.  She has Venus in Aquarius in opposition to its ruler Uranus so chances are good that she has liberal views as it concerns relationships and likely working through issues around her simultaneous need for closeness and her need for freedom.

How do we know how important relationships are to a person?  One place to look is at the houses in the natal chart because that represents  the stage of life on which the planets play out their roles.  She has five planets in Taurus in the 4th house?  Home and hearth is very important to her and she wants warmth, comfort and security.  He has his moon and mars in the eighth house?  Then he wants direct, depthful and honest relating and a good deal of passion in his partnerships.

Another place to look for relating issues/needs is at the sign placements of the personal planets (sun, moon, mercury, venus and mars).  She has the Goddess of Love, Venus, in Pisces?  She's compassionate, idealistic, and seeks a mate she can commune souls with.  With Venus in Gemini he's seeking an intellectual equal and a best friend.  What sort of aspects or linkages are there to the personal planets in the individual charts?  A Venus in Aquarius opposing Pluto expresses itself differently than a Venus in Aquarius with no aspect to Pluto.  Pluto always engenders intensity with his linkages to the personal planets. If both people have Venus in aspect to Pluto, there is a natural affinity between them.

While you are thoroughly examining all the individual pieces of each person's birth chart, don't forget to synthesize the diversity of information or you'll lose perspective on the wholeness of each person.  Keep in mind repeated themes; emphasis on the same expectations or needs or motivations.  When the same theme is repeated within the chart in various ways you know that it's central to the person's identity.

Now that you've examined and absorbed who the two people are as individuals, you are ready to examine how the two charts interact with one another.  In other words, you are going to examine what happens when the energy fields of these two people have an opportunity to interact.  This step involves three different phases of examination.  First, note where the natal planets for one person fall into the houses of the natal chart of the other person.  This is referred to as the overlay technique because what you are doing is laying the natal chart of one person over top of the natal chart of the other (like you would a transparency of one chart over to the other).

For example, you are doing a compatibility reading for Jack and Jill.  You have already examined both Jack and Jill's natal birth charts individually.  Now you are moving into the first phase of the comparison of their birth charts.  You have both Jack and Jill's natal birth charts in front of you.  Take the positions of Jack's natal planets, and in a different color ink, add them to Jill's chart.  Note Jill's planets in a different color of ink in Jack's natal chart.  This noting of where the planets of Jack fall into Jill's chart and vice versa allows you to identify what areas of life are going to be most affected by the other.

Let's say that Jack's sun falls in Jill's fourth house and her sun falls in his third house.  The sun solarizes, vitalizes or "lights up" the house where it is found.
With Jack's sun in Jill's fourth house his presence in her life is going to affect her home or domestic circumstances and her sense of "rootedness."  With Jill's sun in Jack's third house he's likely to feel a greater willingness to talk things out with Jill and he'll be mentally stimulated by her.

When you are working with the overlay, look at which houses of one chart are being inhabited by the other partners planets and realize that the more planets that are inhabiting a house, the more the emphases on the affairs that are governed by that house.  (For keywords relating to the twelve houses, see the Mercury Retrograde or Part of Fortune articles I've published on the Coaching page of my website.)  Additionally, keep in mind which planet you are looking at and the type of energy related to that planets.  For example, Saturn's influence is experienced as focusing, structuring, frustrating or stabilizing while Venus' influence is experienced as comforting, seducing, refining and warming -- Big difference!

In the next phase of examining Jack and Jill's chart interplay, you'll want to look at the aspects between the planets in Jack's charts to the planets in Jill's chart.  The aspects are geometrical angles formed between planets in various signs and represent communication links between the planets.  Each angle represents a different type of linkage: a square is dynamic and frictional, an opposition separative and projective, a conjunction uniting, and a trine or sextile harmonious in its influence.  (For more information on this topic, consult the article on Aspects that I've published on my website.)  You will want to keep track of the interaspects twice: once from the point of view of Jack's chart and once from the point of view of Jill's.

Any aspects involving the primary triad (consisting of the Sun, Moon and Ascendant) are generally the most significant.  Linkages between the sun in one person's chart to the moon in the other are indicative that two people can touch each other deeply.   The aspect itself determines whether the exchange is primarily challenging or harmonious.  Additionally, you'll want to examine the aspects in light of the planets involved.  Romantic attraction is indicated by aspects between the Ascendant of one chart with the sun, moon, venus, or mars in the other.  Aspects between mars and venus, venus and uranus, venus and pluto, mars and sun, and sun and uranus are indicative of physical attraction.  Venus with the sun or moon indicates an emotional attraction.

However, not all attractions result in enduring relationships.  While attraction is important in intimate relationships, so are indicators of endurability.  Where do we look for those?  Sun sign and house comparison is important here, because it provides information about who each person is at their core and the type of experiences needed to feed individual vitality.  Sun sign comparison can identify conflict of goals or aspirations or serious differences in core identity.  Individuals born in signs ruled by the same planet, such as Libra-Taurus ruled by Venus or Gemini-Virgo, ruled by Mercury, have the potential to be enduring despite the fact that traditional sun sign astrology would not consider these signs as compatible.  Further, another sign of compatibility not always taken into consideration is when the ruler of one person's sun sign falls in the sign of ithe partners sun sign.  For example, let's say that Jack's sun is in Capricorn and Jill's sun is in Taurus.  Saturn (ruler of Capricorn) is in Taurus in Jack's chart and Venus, ruler of  Taurus, is in Capricorn in Jill's chart.

Even more imperative to considerations of endurance of any relationship is moon sign comparison; especially if the two people plan to live together.  The moon has much to do with emotional and domestic needs and describes the type of people and experiences you feel "at home" with; what feels comfortable to you.  Moon in Capricorn, Cancer, Taurus and Scorpio are very security oriented. They are nurtured (the moon) by having their mate offer them a back rub or an evening at home eating popcorn, watching a movie. Moon in Aries, Aquarius, Sagittarius or Gemini is going to need to have the freedom to come and go as they please and aren't prone to being homebodies.  They are nurtured by the spontaneous and new.  Moon in Pisces will be nurtured by romantic overtures like a picnic under the stars.

Now, let's say that Jack's moon is in Aries and Jill's moon is in Capricorn.  Moon in Aries tends to be upbeat and optimistic while moon in Capricorn can be prone to worrying.  It's hard for these two moon signs to comprehend the differences in their emotional needs.  Capricorn is nurtured by feeling secure and an Aries moon sees little need for pampering.  But, what if Jack's Aries moon is conjunct Saturn, ruler of Capricorn?  This indicates they both have a Saturn influence on the moon.  Practically what that means is that Jack would be able to comprehend Jill's need for security, because he'd experience it himself.  And, Jill would be more upbeat and optimistic if her Capricorn moon were trine mars.  Such things represent natural affinities not readily apparent by examining only sign placements alone.

In addition, we cannot underestimate the importance of mental agreement when considering the endurability of a relationship.  Without harmony of viewpoint or the ability to talk out differences, few relationships endure in any meaningful way.   The degree and quality of mental affinity between the two people is primarily revealed by aspects between Mercury and moon, mercury and mercury, mercury and sun, and mercury and jupiter.

Additionally, Jupiter in one chart in conjunction with a planet in the other chart is indicative of endurance because Jupiter contacts engender tolerance and generosity toward another.  Jupiter in conjunction with the other's sun, ascendant, mercury, venus moon, or mars is a very fine aspect to have when the going gets tough.  Such aspects between charts are indicative of two people who really like each other - and we certainly can't underestimate the power of that!

And believe it or not, interaspects between charts involving Saturn can be very stabilizing and hence, indicators of endurance.  Saturn symbolizes a sense of duty and responsibility and engenders perseverance.  However, Saturn aspects can also be too persevering or overly stabilizing -- one of Saturn's downfalls is his proclivity to crystallization.  Keeping this in mind, you don't want to see too much emphasis on Saturn aspects in a comparison (especially the stressful aspects) but you do want to see at least one aspect from Saturn in one person's chart to the sun, moon, ascendant, venus, mars, or mercury of the other because such an aspect will promote commitment to the relationship and each other.

The final phase of this second step involves the synthesis of all the information you have uncovered.  That is, step back a bit and look at the bigger picture.  Compare the overall feeling of Jack's chart with Jill's as well as your overall sense of the interaction between the two.  Does one have strengths where the other is weak?  How well do the two charts compliment each other in general?  What are the strengths of these two people and what are their weaknesses as a couple?  The astrologer's goal here is to help both people become more aware of not only the self but also of the other.  Understanding that they are two unique individuals who will at times have conflicting needs is a wonderful understanding to have!

The final step of a compatibility reading involves understanding the entity that is the couple.  In order to do this, the astrologer enacts what is called a Composite chart: a chart constructed from the two birthcharts and representative of the relationship itself.  The composite chart affords us further insights about what happens when Jack and Jill come together.  The composite chart will often alleviate any ambiguity that remains after the first two steps.  The composite chart allows the astrologer to see more precisely the nature of difficulties as well as the strengths.  The glory of the composite chart is that it takes into account the fact that a relationship is not simply two individuals coming together but an entity in its own right.  That is, there is Jack and there is Jill and there is a third party: their relationship.  Have you not witnessed two people in relationship together that you would never think would have a healthy, fulfilling relationship but who do?  The composite chart often offers insights into the relationship itself that can't be answered by the other synastric techniques.  To learn more about composite charts, I recommend Robert Hand's, "Planets in Composite."

The purpose of comparing the horoscope of one individual with that of another is invaluable in determining all the opportunities and potentialities of the relationship itself, but don't overlook that first vital step: that of understanding first who the two people are as individuals and their unique strengths and weaknesses because that is what each of them brings to the relationship!

Astrology's greatest benefit is as a tool for self-discovery.  The discipline of synastry provides the valuable contribution of promoting not only self-knowledge but also other knowledge.  That is, it promotes understanding between people which engenders compassion and tolerance for differences. As you can see though, there are a great many factors to be considered that can make subtle yet significant differences in the final interpretation of the two charts!  This branch of astrology is one of the most complex but I also find it one of the most rewarding.

Are there any wholly useless encounters?  I know this: there are no insignificant people.  There is no one who isn't supposed to be here.
                                 Hugh Prather

My Blessings and Best Wishes,

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