Astrology Answers

by Terri Smallwood


It never ceases to amaze me just how extensive and complex the subject of astrology is. There are days when I shake my head and wish for centuries to study all the theories and all the various schools of thought that have contributed to the vast body of knowledge that is modern astrology. And then there are times when I want to step back from the overwhelming pile of information and just do it.

In my own practice, I tend to favor the traditional, the simple, the tried and true. It’s not that I totally ignore the asteroids or the lesser-known aspects; it’s that I consider those things to be the flavor in a chart, the fresh pepper you grind onto your plate as your dinner is served. When I first sit down and get to know somebody through their natus, I look for the meat and potatoes. That’s what drew me to Jennifer, who asks a question about a specific — and powerful — aspect in her chart:


My questions revolve around what little I know about my natal chart and what I know regarding my life thus far.

I know I have my Sun conjunct Pluto in my chart, but I am unsure of what exactly this means to me. I can tell you that my life is very phoenix-like; I have re-configured my life out of the ashes continuously. I have picked up multiple trades, abilities, jobs, and dropped them, only to start all over again with something new. It’s very exhausting but doesn’t show any signs of ending, and I’m not sure I even want it to … is there anything in my chart that confirms or suggests this?


Jennifer’s question deals with a specific aspect in her chart. In astrology, an aspect is a combination of two or more planets whose energy is intertwined. Aspects between planets in a natal chart generally have some sort of geometric relationship, which is why sometimes when looking at a natal chart you can see patterns like triangles or squares or stars. The possibilities are limitless and can be very complex, but Jennifer’s conjunction is intriguing because of its simplicity. A conjunction is when two or more planets lie within approximately 8 degrees of each other. This usually means they share the same sign, but that isn’t always the case. A late-degree Scorpio Moon can be conjunct an early-degree Sagittarius Mercury, and the basic interpretation is still valid.

Jennifer’s Natal Chart

Jennifer’s Sun is in Libra at 6 degrees 54 minutes, and her Pluto is in Libra at 6 degrees 42 minutes — an almost exact conjunction. I always look closely at planets that aspect the Sun when I first look at a natal chart. The Sun is where we find a person’s basic nature, as determined by the sign the Sun is in. However, we all know those people who just don’t seem to fit their signs, who behave in ways completely opposite to how they are supposed to behave, astrologically speaking. This is where modifying influences like aspects come into play. And that is why astrology is about much more than text-book definitions of particular signs or planets. It’s about distinct layers of energy that mingle together, broadening and testing each other as they strive to create a whole. It’s a cosmic lasagna!

In Jennifer’s case there are deeper layers to her Sun-conjunct-Pluto aspect than she mentions in her question. Jennifer’s Mars is in Libra at 11 degrees 30 minutes, and that certainly falls into the 8-degree zone. Her Venus, at 27 degrees 18 minutes Virgo, is another factor that needs to be considered. Jennifer’s Venus is approximately 9 degrees away from her Sun, which is a full degree further away then our prescribed 8-degree orb of influence. In this case, I’m willing to throw out the rule book. Am I committing astrological heresy? Let me state my case: Consider that the Sun is a fairly quick-moving planet, covering a degree each day. Consider also just how big this Sun/Pluto/Mars pile of energy is. In my opinion, when it’s a case of a conjunction that involves the all-important Sun, loosening the orbs a little bit isn’t playing fast and loose with the rules. Rather, it shows an understanding that the energies of any given chart don’t exist in a vacuum.

The all-encompassing energies of this particular combination of planets have obviously shown up in Jennifer’s life. She writes about a life that is “phoenix-like,” an obvious reference to the regenerative energies of Pluto, a force made more powerful in Jennifer’s chart due to Pluto’s proximity to her Sun.

Conjunctions are neither helpful nor challenging aspects. They are like the soup pot that cooks the various ingredients into a single dish. How that soup turns out depends a lot on how well the flavors of the ingredients combine. In Jennifer’s case, the conjunction of the Sun, Pluto and Mars tends to enforce some basic qualities that the three planets share. In their own ways, all of them are about power. The Sun is the living force of life, the very basic pulse of our existence. Mars is the power of the individual ego, the emerging sense of self as a creator and destroyer. Pluto is the higher octave of Mars; he is the regenerator and redeemer. And as Jennifer knows, he is the Phoenix — the mythical bird who combusts and then is reborn from his own ashes. Taken as a whole, this is a blended concoction of three planets with a profound interest in personal power. Each planet in the group seeks to move Jennifer’s life forward through a combination of direct action and circumstances that force her to accept changes thrust upon her, as well as being the initiator of change herself. How challenging she finds that role has a lot to do with some of the other layers in her slice of the cosmic lasagna.

In evaluating the potential impact of any aspect, I look at the planets involved and also the signs they are working through. In Jennifer’s case, her conjunction is comprised of mainly Libran energy (we’ll talk about her Venus in Virgo in a minute). As such, both her Sun and Mars are debilitated, meaning that they are undermined by being in signs that repress the natural impulses of these planets. The strong ego-impulses of Mars are weakened by the indecisiveness of Libra. The emphasis on individual power of the Sun is muddled by the Libran drive towards cooperation. In Jennifer’s case, this may in fact be a blessing in disguise. The sheer power potential of this triple threat of Sun, Mars and Pluto could express itself very strongly, even violently, if it were found in another sign. The tempering effect of Libra does dilute some of the raw power of this conjunction, but if used correctly, it still can provide Jennifer with a tremendous font of energy and personal strength.

Another mitigating factor in this potentially overwhelming conjunction is the Venus influence. Interestingly, Venus is also dishonored when it resides in Virgo, the sign of its fall. The benefits of Virgo’s analytical logic are lost on Venus. Criticism abounds, especially in the area of relationships. But debilitated or not, Venus is a generous and fortunate planet to have in close aspect to one’s Sun. The conjunction offers some relief from the overly militaristic tone that Mars sets. Jennifer may often feel pulled in two directions — towards shows of strength of action by Mars, or to reconciliation and a need for peace at any price by Venus. The key is to understand that both facets of her nature are valid, and to cultivate them in balance.

Jennifer’s question also mentions a plethora of, “multiple trades, abilities, jobs.” In her case, one needs to look no further than the house placement of her powerful triple conjunction. With Pluto, the Sun and Mars all tightly conjunct in the early degrees of her 2nd house, and with Uranus and Mercury joining forces in the later degrees, it is no wonder that Jennifer is focused on her jobs and abilities.

Ruled by Taurus and concerned with gathering resources, the 2nd house is the house that governs how we earn our daily bread. This isn’t the same as the 10th house, which is more directly associated with one’s career; rather, this house indicates the potential for moneymaking (the modern equivalent of resource-gathering.)

To say that Jennifer’s talents are multifaceted is no understatement. With five planets located in her 2nd house, the sky is the limit when it comes to possible moneymaking endeavors, and the varied resources Jennifer brings to the table would be numerous and diverse. The strong Libran energy, further strengthened by the Venus connection to Taurus, indicates potential in all the areas Venus rules: the law, the courts, beauty and the arts.

To have such abundant energy in the form of the Venus, Sun, Pluto, Mars conjunction can be exhausting, as Jennifer points out. She asks, too, will this ever change? Likely not. The energy in her chart is potent and was chosen for her for a reason. The key for Jennifer is moderation. The influence of Pluto is not to be taken lightly. This intense and driven planet adds a dark element to Jennifer’s basically optimistic nature. When activated by a transiting planet, Jennifer’s Pluto prompts her to go into regeneration mode. It seeks to challenge her and accelerate her growth by pushing her to her maximum and forcing her to examine her life on an almost microscopic level. Yes, there’s no doubt it’s tiring work, but by recognizing the influence, the psychological exhaustion can be kept at bay. Jennifer needs to tap into the moderating influences of her conjunction, the gentler Venus energy, the harmony of her Libran Sun. No aspect is wholly good or bad — they all just add layers to the experiences we seek to gather here on the Earth plane. They provide the flavour and the chance to taste life.

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