Astrology Answers

by Terri Smallwood


Thanks so much to everyone who sent in questions last month. I was very honored and little overwhelmed by the response. It’s a special treat though, to know that so many of you appreciate the power and beauty of the astrological energy out there. This month, I am answering a question from a reader who’s experiencing something that’s common to many of us — the stress of balancing obligations of work with the need for leisure time too. She writes:

Hi, I am currently running my own business and am getting exhausted and depressed, but yet I also feel like I can’t quit … it is who I am, my heart and soul, but yet I can’t continue and long for simpler days. I do not know what to do! Thank you in advance for any guidance you may find in my chart!   ~Ria~

To answer Ria’s question I am going to look at her chart in three different lights. First, I’ll talk about her basic natal chart — the planets and luminaries in the signs and houses. This is the basic palette of colour Ria has been given to work with in this lifetime. Secondly, I’ll look at the aspects formed between the planets in Ria’s natal chart. The aspects show where energy is concentrated and how it flows and interacts within her chart. These aspect lines are like the brush strokes that connect the dots. And finally, I’ll look beyond her natal chart to see how the planets today are interacting with her natal chart. This look at transits of the planets may offer some clues to why she feels she is at this place of crisis and where she could look for the light at the end of the tunnel.

Ria’s Natal Chart

Ria’s Sun sign is Cancer. And boy, is she ever a Cancer! With not only her Sun, but the Moon, Mercury and Venus all placed in this sensitive water sign, Ria is heavily influenced by all the Cancerian qualities. She will feel a strong need to have security in her life, and for her, that security may be represented by the material possessions she has acquired. Cancers aren’t materialistic in the sense that they want to show off or be better than everyone else; rather, they look at their possessions and bank balances as an indication of stability and safety. This strong drive may be part of what impels Ria to work so hard. Cancers are also cardinal signs of leadership. While they may seem quiet, even meek, Cancers are tenacious and can be very relentless once they have set their sights on a goal.

But the most important thing to remember about the sign of Cancer is that it is ruled by our closest planetary neighbour, the Moon. Having your astrological ruler so close must certainly intensify the experience of being a native of that sign — and for Cancers this intensity comes through in their emotions. Cancers don’t think, Cancers FEEL. And because so many of Ria’s personal planets are coloured by this emotional and impressionable sign, Ria is likely to be very sensitive and highly susceptible to mood swings and emotional changes. Cancer’s sensitive nature demands periodic breaks from the demanding rush of ordinary life. Ria needs to create for herself a quiet nook where she can go for refuge and recharge her psychic batteries.

Ria’s four planets in Cancer are likely playing a strong role in her current problem. Driven for security, Ria works hard, but her passion has skewed the balance in her life to the point where her most basic needs for emotional cleansing and renewal are in conflict with her ambition.

Two other planets in Ria’s chart may hold some answers to her query. Jupiter and Saturn, two very powerful planets that influence our personal lifecycles, are quite prominent in Ria’s chart. Each of these planets is in the sign of its dignity; that is, each is located, in Ria’s chart, within the sign that it rules. Ria’s Jupiter in Sagittarius gives her a buoyant optimism, an experience that is normally alien to the Cancer-ruled personality. The influence of Jupiter in Ria’s chart is a moderating one, hopefully easing the natural pessimism of all the Cancerian energy and allowing her to feel more enthusiastic and lucky than she would otherwise.

Saturn, the planet that shows us our karmic obligations in this lifetime, is in Capricorn in Ria’s chart. Saturn in Capricorn is a demanding placement, but overall a very good one. It has given Ria the ability to be organized and stable. It grounds some of the very emotional Cancer energy and also bestows a very good business sense and ability to manage finances. Saturn in Capricorn natives are generally very hardworking, which can be either a blessing or a curse. The tendency to put off relaxation and fun in favour of work and business is common with this placement, and that can quickly lead to the kind of burn-out Ria describes in her letter.

Ria’s Ascendant is Pisces. The Ascendant is the sign that is rising on the horizon at the moment of birth and is a very significant factor in any natal chart. The Ascendant is the “mask” we present to the world. Often the people we meet will see in us more of the characteristics of our Ascendant than our actual Sun sign, whose characteristics colour our more private, inner natures.

Pisces, like Cancer, is an emotional water sign. There are a lot of similarities between Pisces and Cancer because of the water element that they share. So Ria’s outer mask is in harmony with her basic nature. She appears to others as a compassionate, sensitive, occasionally flaky person. She’s probably well liked, although perhaps not always understood. Her very watery nature means that she is like a sponge and can easily pick up the moods and feelings of the people around her. Her friends may think of her as psychic, and maybe she is, but certainly she should always go with her intuition, which is likely to be well developed.

The Ascendant also sets the stage for the rest of the horoscope, as its placement determines how the rest of the chart is built and in which house each of the planets and luminaries are placed. The houses represent the various arenas of existence. Each one rules a different aspect of life, such as finances, relationships and secrets. The expression of each planet’s energy takes on the colour of the sign it is in and then is further modified by the house in which it falls.

In Ria’s chart, the planets are spread fairly evenly amongst the houses, although there is a definite pull towards the southwestern quadrant of her chart. This grouping of three houses, the 4th, 5th and 6th, share a few common qualities. People with a concentration of planets here are generally self-motivated and express their energy best within the structures and institutions of daily life: the home, the family, children and work. Ria’s Sun is given an extra shot of Cancer energy by its placement in the 4th house, which is the house reserved for affairs of the home and family life.

Since Ria’s question is about work, I look to the 2nd, 6th and 10th houses. The 10th house rules the career in terms of our professional status in the public eye. The 6th house rules work, which may or may not be the same as one’s career. The “work” of the 6th house may complement the career or it may be something like a hobby or volunteer work that is done as a labour of love. Because Ria describes what she does as being, “who I am, heart and soul,” I would make the assumption that her 6th-house work is related to her 10th-house career. The 2nd house comes into play because it shows one’s ability to gather resources, and often the planets here will give an indication of the type of career or how one earns their daily bread, as well as their attitudes to work and their feelings about money and possessions.

Ria’s Mars in Taurus is located in her 2nd house. This is a good placement for Mars, as it describes a person who will work hard to gather resources and indicates general success in business. It can also indicate someone who works a little too hard, who is overly concerned with success and obsessed with being better than the competition.

Mars in Ria’s chart is also part of a larger combination of planets known as a Grand Trine. A trine aspect happens when two planets form a 120-degree angle, which places them three signs apart and means that both planets will be in the same element. A Grand Trine happens when three planets make this 120-degree angle to one another, so that they each appear to be a vertex of an equilateral triangle. The energy flows well in this aspect and the drives and motivations of the planets are in synch.

Ria’s Natal Chart with Aspects

In looking at Ria’s Grand Trine, it is easy to see why her business has become something of an obsession to her. Mars in the 2nd house, Pluto in the 6th and Jupiter in the 10th are all working together to promote the activities of their respective houses. Jupiter in the 10th is an especially fortunate position for a business person like Ria, as it bestows luck upon the career and gives her a more fiery public personality than would be normally apparent in such an otherwise watery chart. Pluto, a powerful planet that seeks to transform and regenerate, adds his commanding presence to this trine. Pluto and Mars together are often an explosive combination, but the harmony that exists in a trine aspect mollifies this feisty duo and bestows upon Ria a powerful ability to work tirelessly at any task she sets her mind to do. Jupiter moderates this sometimes-obsessive pair by injecting his philosophical lassiez-faire attitude into the mix. The result is a person with a strong drive to gather resources, who uses work as her vehicle for personal transformation and who has been granted the gift of luck and good fortune in her career.

But what of Ria’s dilemma? In looking at her chart, it’s easy to see how and why she was able to run her own business and be one of the fortunate few who works at an endeavor she loves. We can see what aspects have contributed both to her success as well as to her tendency to overwork. But is she stuck feeling this way, or is there a way for her to find the balance she is looking for?

Ria’s Natal Chart with Transiting Planets in the Outer Circle

Over the past year or so, Ria has undergone some very difficult transits. In 2003, Saturn entered the sign of Cancer and remains there still. For someone like Ria with such a large concentration of planets in Cancer, this time will have been very trying. Saturn isn’t called the “Lord of Karma” for nothing, as it’s his mission to ensure that each of us faces up to our obligations in this lifetime. Transits of Saturn, especially strong ones like the conjunctions Ria has been experiencing, will have caused her to feel frustrated and thwarted, as many seemingly insurmountable obstacles have fallen into her path. Saturn transits also feel restrictive, and with Saturn currently moving through her 5th house of fun and creativity, it’s no wonder Ria is feeling a little bit “all work and no play.”

In fact, Saturn is at this time making a direct hit to Ria’s Moon in Cancer. This is a very difficult transit for anyone, but especially so for one so emotionally tuned in as Ria. This transit can contribute to feelings of loneliness, isolation and depression. The stern and critical gaze of Old Man Saturn shrivels Ria’s sensitive Moon, and there’s a chance she’s feeling hopeless and insecure by this scrutiny of her emotional health. While all this may feel like a tough, even devastating, blow from out of the blue, there is a method to Saturn’s madness.

This is a very good time for some honest and constructive soul-searching and a real chance to make important changes in her life to address her emotional needs. Saturn is never heavy just for the sake of being heavy. If Ria is finding this transit to be very difficult, then it’s a clue that she has been neglecting her emotional side for too long. Use this experience as the starting point for a new regime that involves scheduling frequent “Me time.” Ria needs to make appointments with herself and treat that time with as much sense of priority as an appointment with her best client. She can use that time to rediscover an old hobby, learn to cook a new dish, or take a mini-break and visit the sea. There are many ways that even the busiest of people can take time to nurture their inner self. Because Saturn’s transits occur in predictable cycles, everything she does now to strengthen her emotional health will continue to pay off during future transits of Saturn too. If she neglects her karmic obligations, then she may feel temporarily better when Saturn moves past her Moon later this winter, but the next strong aspect from Saturn will take her right back to Square One again!

Pluto is also a heavy hitter when it comes to transits, and he is currently residing in Ria’s 10th house. Because Pluto is such a slow-moving outer planet, he can spend a decade or more moving through just one house. Pluto seeks to regenerate and transform and can be best understood by the symbolism of the Phoenix, who bursts into flames and then re-emerges, renewed, from the ashes of his former existence.

Pluto in the 10th is driving Ria to achieve more than she has ever tried to achieve before. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is possible that the relentless obsessive nature of Pluto has skewed the focus of Ria’s life. She needs to consider that even though she loves what she is doing and has been given many astrological tools for success, she cannot work hard to the exclusion of everything else in her life. Pluto transiting the 10th is a powerful indication that these next few years will be very successful for Ria, especially in late 2006 and early 2007, when Pluto will conjunct Ria’s natal Jupiter. She can look forward to many dreams being realized and plans coming to fruition under that strong influence. There’s a chance that Ria’s success will not be purely material under this influence either. The combination of Pluto’s regenerative energy combined with Ria’s optimistic Jupiter in Sagittarius creates the potential for a sort of spiritual rebirth at the time, especially as Pluto will slowly begin to activate her Grand Trine as he moves into Capricorn and trines her natal Pluto and Mars.

If Ria is concerned that her focus has become too career-driven, then it would be wise now to think about what other areas of her life she would like to focus on. Preparing to greet this influx of highly charged spiritual energy may set Ria up for a very powerful and life-changing experience later in 2007. If she hasn’t found a way to nurture herself before that time, then I see that transit as one that will bring her back to the issue, but from a different angle. It will ultimately be a very positive time; however, because of the strength of the energy involved and because Pluto will also be interacting with other planets in her chart, there may be some difficulties to overcome. Regenerating is never easy work!

I hope this first edition of “Astrology Answers” has offered something to all of us. I’m a Libra, so I know intrinsically about needing to find balance. There’s a lot to be said for professional success, but no one can thrive forever if the focus of life is just on one area. Ria, like many of us, needs to begin to identify herself with something that is beyond just her career. Taking a step back from our work lives, we can see that there is so much more happening in the world. Maybe the answer is to work less, rearrange our priorities, and tighten our belts. True, that may not always be financially possible, but once you start to think outside the box, it’s surprising what gifts you find. And maybe for some, the answer lies in transits that on the surface feel difficult and unwelcome, but deep down are preparing you for a destiny you’ve only just begun to glimpse. It may be a bumpy road, but the destination is one you’ve been preparing to meet for lifetimes.

Questions, which need to include one’s date, time and location of birth, may be sent to Terri at