Hello out there, astrology friends! As I mentioned at the beginning of the TarotBlog I posted a few weeks ago, the past 2 months have been insanely busy for my family and I (weddings, funerals, car repairs, and home remodeling projects), so I’ve been somewhat delayed in my follow up posts. But, such is life, and here we are! I’m hoping to get back on track with building up the website and adding some new content, so stay tuned!
In the last AstroBlog, we went over some of the basics around chart set up and how things are oriented on our natal charts. In this blog, as promised, we will talk about general chart shapes and what information we can get from chart shape alone as well as what the AC/DC (ascendant & descendant) tells us.
We’ll continue to use Beyonce’s chart as our example to work with, but again – I urge you to have your chart in hand as we start to explore the specifics of interpreting natal charts.
Let’s start by discussing some common chart shapes. In the last blog, we talked about what concentrations of planetary energy in different hemispheres and quadrants on the chart foster. In addition to that, there are a few well-known chart configurations to consider.
Without paying too much attention to what the planets are for the moment, just look to see where the little glyphs are on the chart you’re looking at.
Bowls/Bundles/Clusters: The bowl occurs when all of the planets are sitting in one half of the chart (a 180° section).
People with a bowl chart configuration are generally self-contained. They are incredibly focused/talented in certain aspects of their life (where is the bowl is) and feel like something is “missing” in other parts of their life (the parts of the chart that are empty). It makes sense when you consider having all that planetary energy on one half of the chart and the other half of the chart being completely empty. People with this natal chart pattern generally feel a pull to satisfy the empty parts of their chart. The planets on the ends of the bowl are referred to as “rims” or “rim planets,” and when you think about the fact that a bowl takes up half of a natal chart, and a chart is a circular 360°, it would stand to reason that these rim planets should be roughly 180° apart. We haven’t talked about aspects yet, but when two planets are 180° apart on a natal chart, we consider them to be in opposition. For the purposes of this discussion, typically the closer these two rim planets are to that 180° relationship to one another, the more strongly the bowl effect can be felt. One thing we often talk about along with this chart shape is the “cutting planet,” which is a leading planet of sorts. There will be real emphasis on this planet in the chart. In a bowl pattern, you can determine the cutting planet, by focusing where the empty space is and then moving counter-clockwise until you hit a planet. That first planet you run into will be the cutting planet. In this chart pattern, the cutting planet will also be a rim planet. It’s also important to mention here that there is another chart shape, referred to as “Bundle” or “Cluster” which is very similar to a Bowl Chart. The difference between a Bowl chart and a Bundle/Cluster Chart is that, while a Bowl Chart takes up 6 Houses (180°) on a chart, a Blundle/Cluster takes up roughly one third (4-5ish Houses or approximately 120° on the chart.) So, it’s like a tighter, more concentrated Bowl. You locate the cutting planet in a Bundle/Cluster Chart the same way you do with a Bowl Chart.
Beyonce has a bowl-shaped chart, and her rim/cutting planet is Mars in Leo in the 10th House. It makes sense that this is a very important planet in her chart, as it speaks to her aggressive and instinctual nature (Mars) in her career (the 10th House) as a performer (Leo). She’s one of the biggest stars of all time, so it makes total sense that her chart reflects this drive in her.
Bucket: Close to the bowl, but slightly different in appearance, is the bucket. The bucket occurs when the majority of the planets, with the exception of 1 or possibly 2 in close conjunction to one another, are in the bowl formation, taking up a 180° half of a chart, and the last planet or 2 planets in close conjunction are opposite the bowl (referred to as “the handle.”)
People with the bucket configuration have a similar feel to the bowl pattern, in that, the bulk of their energy is focused on one half of the chart, and there is a vast empty space that they feel pulled to. The difference between a bowl and a bucket, is that the bucket has the handle, which serves as a point of release. As such, bucket people are less self-contained than bowl people. They have an outlet into the empty part of their chart. If the handle is directly centered over the bowl, the person will have great focus and ambition in achieving things. The bucket pattern speaks to people who have the capacity to do really important and special things in life specific to the area of the chart where the bowl occurs. Since they have all that natural energy focused on those areas, they possess the natural talents/gifts/focus that bowl people have. However, unlike bowl people, bucket people have the ability to reach into the empty space on their chart via the handle to access what they lack. This makes them very goal-oriented and effective. While there is a cutting planet in the bucket configuration, it is generally considered to be of secondary concern to the focus of the bucket/handle.
Locomotive: Locomotive charts are characterized by having planets in roughly 2/3 or the chart, with 1/3 of the chart being empty. For people who are already versed in the astrological language, locomotive people typically have a grand trine somewhere in their charts, and what you’ll find is that there will be clusters of planets on 2 of the 3 sides of the triangle formed by the grand trine, and one (roughly 120°) notable empty space.
In the locomotive chart shape, the cutting planet can be identified by focusing on the larger empty space and moving counterclockwise until you hit a planet. That planet will be the cutting planet and will be an important factor in the individual’s chart. People with locomotive charts are doers. Like a locomotive, these people are driven, and generally get things done. These people are subject to periods of great productivity, followed by short durations of burnout, then they’re right back at it again. One other notable thing about folks with a locomotive chart is that they tend to have a unique “stamp” to the way they do things. There is also a tendency to focus energy into the area of life represented by the 120° empty region of the chart.
See-Saw: A See-Saw Chart is formed when a chart has two distinct clumps of planets that are in opposition to one another (a 180° relationship). People with See-saw charts are very balanced. These people are able to look at both sides of every situation. Additionally, while Bowl/Bundle/Cluster people can be a little more on the self-absorbed side, See-Saw people are great with the awareness of others, and they seek to facilitate harmony. Think Libra (for those of you already somewhat versed in astrological language).
This chart shape is one of the more frequently occurring configurations.
Splay: This pattern is also sometimes referred to as “Tripod.” For beginners, this chart shape can be difficult to spot. Plus, it’s on the rarer side. For people who have some astrology experience already, in order for a chart to be a true Splay/Tripod, there must be a grand trine, and there may not be any planetary oppositions. If you’re relatively new to astrology, we’ll learn about trines and oppositions as we continue in subsequent blogs, but for now, you can spot a Splay pattern by looking for roughly three groups of planets in a sort of triangle shape.
Just as Grand Trines bring us very specialized talents, so does this chart shape. Triangles are stable and so are the people with a Splay/Tripod pattern. These people are typically naturally gifted with a special set of talents. Certain life experiences just seem to come to them with ease. However, on the flipside, these people can sometimes be a bit arrogant or proud. They’re so good at the things that they’re good at that they sometimes can get a little bit of a big head or know-it-all attitude about it, but hey, we all have our karmic struggles.
Splash: Splash charts occur when the planets in chart are fairly evenly spread out, with at least 8 of the 12 houses having planets in them. As you might imagine, with planetary energy scattered into so many different signs and houses, these people tend to be the “jack of all trades” and have a broad range of interests. These interests/talents are less intensely concentrated than in the Splay configuration. Splay people are highly gifted in specific areas. Splash people are more “generalists.” They’re relatable with a number of subjects, but not necessarily an expert on any one in particular. Versatile is probably the best word to use in describing a Splash person.
And there you have it – the basic chart shapes! There are more, but these are the major ones that you’ll see most frequently.
ASCENDANT & DESCENDANT
The last thing we’re going to talk about in this blog are our Ascendant and Descendant (AC/DC). I know I said we would cover the MC/IC this week in my last post, but I’m going to push that out to next week because there's a lot of content associated with the AC/DC discussion. But, our AC/DC axis is really important, and I want to make sure to give it the time it deserves.
If you remember from last time, the AC/DC axis runs through the middle of the chart horizontally. AC is your ascendant and is the sign that was coming up on the horizon at the time of your birth. Your DC is your descendant and is the sign that was setting at the time of your birth. So, what do our ascendant and descendant tell us? Kind of a lot, actually…
Ascendant (Rising Sign)
Your Ascendant, or rising sign, represents how you meet the world. It’s located on the left side of the horizontal line cutting through the center of the chart, right where the first house begins. This is how others see you, and it’s the impression you’ll tend to leave with people. I’ve heard it described as the “mask” that we wear when we step out into the world. This may or may not be the same sign as our sun sign (who we are at our core.) For people who have the same sun and ascendant sign – what you see will likely be very much what you get. However, for many of us, our sun sign is different from our ascendant. I have an Aries sun, but a Virgo Ascendant. So, when people meet me, I come off as a Virgo – neat, meticulous, practical, observant, etc., but when you get to know me a bit, you will quickly learn that in addition to that process-driven Virgo nature that I meet the outside world with, at my core, I burn the fuel of Aries. I have a fiery competitive streak (both a good and a not-so-good quality, depending on the situation), I’m an absolute doer, I’m aggressive (again, sometimes that serves me, sometimes it doesn’t), and I’m generally courageous. A couple of my family members have a matching sun and ascendant sign, so for them, as I mentioned earlier – what you see when you meet them is absolutely what you get once you really get to know them.
If we go back and look at our example chart for Beyonce, we’ll see that Beyonce’s ascendant is Libra, and her sun sign is Virgo. So, she would be one of these people who has a blend of the qualities of the two signs. She would meet the external world as a Libra – harmonious, balanced, & magnetic. However, at her core, she burns the fuel of Virgo – perfectionist, practical, orderly, and particular. You could imagine how this blend would serve someone in the entertainment business. The Libra ascendant would undoubtedly help in interacting with fans/public in a gracious and pleasant way without exhausting the person (as this would be their natural preference for how to meet the outside world). Likewise, behind the scenes, while creating their art/honing their craft, the critical Virgo sun would help them edit and push to make the end product the best it can be.
One last thing to mention with regards to the Ascendant is that it determines your chart ruler. We will get into more of the specifics of chart rulership next week, but for now, know that the planet which is the natural ruler of your ascendant will be your natural chart ruler. This planet in your chart will get some extra emphasis. Rulership is as follows below:
Aries is ruled by Mars.
Taurus is ruled by Venus.
Gemini is ruled by Mercury.
Cancer is ruled by the Moon.
Leo is ruled by the Sun.
Virgo is ruled by Mercury.
Libra is ruled by Venus.
Scorpio is jointly ruled by Mars/Pluto.
Sagittarius is ruled by Jupiter.
Capricorn is ruled by Saturn.
Aquarius is jointly ruled by Uranus/Saturn.
Pisces is jointly ruled by Neptune/Jupiter.
Based on that, my chart ruler is Mercury (Virgo Rising), and Beyonce’s would be Venus (Libra Rising).
Your descendant is located on the right side of that horizontal AC/DC axis, on the cusp (fancy word for beginning) of the 7th house. In future blogs, we’ll talk about what all the houses represent, but for the purposes of this discussion, just know that the 7th House governs partnerships and deep 1:1 relationships. Our descendant speaks not only to what kind of people we tend to attract in close one on one relationships, but also the flipside of ourselves. Ascendants and Descendants are paired up by that 180° relationship that we talked about in our last blog. Each pair deals with a similar theme.
Since Beyonce’s ascendant is Libra, her descendant is Aries. An astrologer I adore, Wayman Stewart, describes the Libra ascendant/Aries descendant as being an iron fist in a velvet glove – which I think is the perfect imagery for this combination. Beyonce’s charming Libra ascendant makes it easy to draw someone in initially – especially someone with the opposing qualities, someone with a very aggressive, Aries nature (we’re looking at you, Mr. Carter). However, once you get close to Beyonce, you will probably likely come to learn that they she is a force to be reckoned with, and the flipside of her personality (which we all have) houses a lot of that Aries energy (competitive, active, aggressive, courageous, sometimes angry – I mean, we’ve all heard Lemonade by now, right?)
Putting it all together – The Relationship Axis:
Taking into consideration that the ascendant governs how we meet the outside world, and that the descendant speaks to our deep personal relationships, the AC/DC axis is known as our Relationship Axis and speaks to some karmic patterns and lessons with regards to relationships (both public and private) that play out for each of us and within each of us. A brief synopsis for each is below.
Aries/Libra – With this pair on the AC/DC axis, we’re talking about a common theme and lesson in our identity. Do we value standing on our own or do we value our relationships with others? Who has our authority? This pair of signs on the axis teaches us the balancing act between the Aries nature (selfish, crass, headstrong, brave, aggressive) and the Libra nature (gentle, balanced, considerate, harmonious, focused on others) inside ourselves and in our relationships – both our public appearance and our close relationships.
Taurus/Scorpio – This pair on the AC/DC axis speaks to striking a balance between simplicity and complexity. The Taurus nature is calm, stable, and grounded. Scorpio is mysterious, deep, suspicious, and complex. Both of these signs deal in the sensual – however, in different fashions. For Taurus, everything is sensory – smell, touch, taste. For Scorpio, the sensual relates to the sexual.
Gemini/Sagittarius – This pairing is about our connectedness – particularly – our connectedness versus our personal freedom. I tend to think of Gemini’s as nerve synapses. They connect, connect, connect – their energy is scattered and restless but communicative. With Sagittarius, we're talking about a different kind of communication. I tend to think of Sagittarius as the storyteller. It’s also communicative but requires the ability for great personal space and freedom. So, this pairing really asks us about how we connect, how strong our desire for togetherness is, and how much space we require for ourselves in our relationships.
Cancer/Capricorn – The common theme in this pairing relates to family (although not necessarily biological), stability, and community. Cancer energy is nurturing, emotional, sensitive, and ever-changing. Capricorn is stable, logical, practical, and capable. Let me preface this next part by saying that when I use the terms “masculine” and “feminine,” I don’t use the terminology to speak about whether someone is physically male, female, or any other gender. We all have masculine and feminine energy inside ourselves, both are equally necessary, and both should be equally respected. But, I want to be clear that we’re not talking about bodies, gender, or sexual orientation for the purposes of this discussion. When I speak about masculinity and femininity here, I’m talking about the astrological associations of the feminine/mother/Moon with Cancer and masculine/father/Saturn with Capricorn. This particular pair on the AC/DC axis asks us to find the balance between masculine and feminine energy in ourselves and in our relationships.
Leo/Aquarius –Leo is a performer – always the center of attention, strong-willed, ego-driven, and focused on the self. Aquarius is the innovator – unique, rebellious, community-focused, and fiercely independent at the same time. So, the combination of these two signs on the AC/DC axis asks us about the balance between interdependency and freedom as well as the importance of the ego/self versus the importance of community/togetherness. In our relationships and within ourselves – what is the right balance of focus on ourselves versus others? How much time in the spotlight do we need versus time dedicated to independence and freedom?
Virgo/Pisces – The common theme between these two signs is about devotion to work and service. Virgo is a hard worker – practical, orderly, meticulous. Pisces is about sacred connectedness of all things, deep intuition, and the power of dreaming. We haven’t talked about all of the House meanings yet, but Virgo is associated with the 6th House – which is associated with our physical bodies and daily work as service (not career – think practical tasks like laundry or running errands, the small tasks that must be done in order for us to live our lives.) Pisces is associated with the 12th House, which is the House of the subconscious mind, social responsibility, intuition, dreams and sacred work. Both signs are about doing hard work – in either a practical or spiritual sense. However, Virgo/Pisces asks us about the energetic balance we strike between practical day to day work that needs to be done and less tangible, spiritual, work that we all need as well.
Ok – we’ve covered a lot today. Look at your chart. Can you identify your chart shape? What is your Ascendant? What is your Descendant? What does your relationship axis tell you about yourself and your relationships?
The next blog will cover the MC/IC axis and the start of a discussion about what the planets are responsible for in our chart.