The zodiac circle is a matrix of creation, one of the shapes seminal to the evolution of form. It can be compared to the pattern of a rainbow that always manifests with the same seven colours in the same order. So the energies radiating from the centre of a circle display a twelve-fold pattern exhibiting the same internal qualitative geometry. And within the circle each of the twelve astrological archetypes has its place, and determines the qualities of its 30-degree segment.
Thus the section of the circle characterised by Aries traits will always lie opposite the section with Libra qualities, whether the matrix is manifesting as a circle of twelve constellations in the sky, as a Neolithic stone circle, or the landscape zodiac around Glastonbury. These are outer world zodiacs but the same geometrical matrix could structure our inner life. I see the zodiac as a form within the collective unconscious that is fractally repeated in each individual psyche.1
The internal geometry of the circle, which is absolute, determines the angular relationships or aspects between its segments. For example there are quincunx aspects between the three Venus signs – Taurus-Libra and Libra-Pisces – which together create a yod. (Venus, goddess of love and beauty, is the ruler of Taurus and Libra, and she’s exalted in Pisces). The astrological quincunx is a narrow pathway we often miss seeing, and stony and treacherous to boot. Its twists lead to unexpected places, so do these quincunxes reflect on our convoluted and often excruciating human experience of love?
The yod between Taurus Libra and Pisces
The word quincunx is derived from the Latin ‘quinc’ meaning five, and ‘unx’ meaning twelfths. Back in the 17th century the naturalist Sir Thomas Browne published a book called ‘In the Garden of Cyrus: or the Quincuncial Lozenge’. In it he discussed the quincunx as a geometrical form that’s found in Nature, together with the mystical meanings ascribed to it by Plato and the ancient Egyptians.2 He identifies a quincunx in the sky formed by the Hyades, and writes that many plants use this shape to protect their seeds. “In lozenge figured boxes nature shuts the seeds and balsam which is about them.” 2(I wonder – could this meaning also apply to the astrological quincunx ie. the protection of seeds in closed boxes?)
Astrological aspects and houses are both derived from the geometry of the circle, a fact which Robert Hand uses to justify astrologers using the ‘house approach’ to interpret them.3 Accordingly the quincunx is both a first-sixth, and a first-eighth house type aspect, so it expresses a mix between Aries and Virgo, and Aries and Scorpio energies. What the Virgo and Scorpio archetypes have in common are themes of purging, adjusting and transforming – one on the physical, the other on the emotional level. However Aries feels uncomfortable with such processes and resists them staunchly, which may explain why quincuncial links in a chart are problematic.
Root quincunxes between houses 1- 6 and 1-8
When we try to integrate two planets in a natural quincunx we come up against the incompatibility of the elements of their signs. Their modalities also vary, so we move, for example, from the fixed earth of Taurus to the cardinal air of Libra, and from there to the mutable water of Pisces. On these pathways the momentum of Libra’s cardinal thrust gets blocked or frittered away resulting in a loss of strength and general frustration.
Another fact that makes the integration of quincunxes difficult is that the three Venus signs are in different zodiac trigants. ‘Trigant’ is my coined word I use to describe the division of the zodiac wheel into three sections of four signs (just as ‘quadrant’ refers to its division into four sections of three).
The division of the zodiac into three trigants
In the first trigant (Aries-Cancer/Houses1-4) our personal security structures on the planes of fire, earth, air and water are established. The second trigant (Leo-Scorpio/ Houses 5-8) establishes structures for our relating to others on these same four levels. The third trigant (Sagittarius-Pisces/Houses 9-12) establishes transpersonal structures for our relating to society and the wider world also on the four planes of fire, earth, air and water.
So earthy Taurus in the first trigant will embody love and beauty physically in her own person. Whereas airy Libra in the second trigant falls in love with beauty in another, and gives love a human, social expression. But when mutable, watery Pisces in the third trigant falls in love, she’s swept away by the waves of collective water. She’ll either submerge then or rise above them by giving love and beauty a transcendent spiritual expression.
The three Venus signs can be seen as three rungs on an ascending ladder comparable to the ladder of the chakras. Earthy Taurus on the lowest rung is rooted in the body and Nature (1st and 2nd chakras). From there we ascend to the second rung (the 4th or heart chakra) where airy Libra faces us with the challenges of ‘married’ love we need for our personal growth. When we have passed Libra’s test we rise to the third rung (6th chakra or third eye) where watery Pisces opens up a new dimension of love that furthers our spiritual development.
So where are you on the ladder of love? For a start if you have Venus in Taurus, Libra or Pisces that is an indication of rung. However you should also consider the archetypes involved more widely. So see if any of the Venus signs and their corresponding houses are prominent in your chart as a whole. For example Taurus, Libra or Pisces (or the 2nd, 7th and 12th houses) may be emphasised by being occupied by a stellium of planets. Or a Venus sign is given weight if it’s your sun, moon or rising sign – you may find you’re on two rungs at once! With any of the three Venus signs prominent in your chart, you’ll be especially challenged by the quincunxes between them, and climbing the ladder of love will on your life’s agenda.
On the first rung of the ladder love and beauty are simply evolutionary mechanisms. Teilhard de Chardin wrote, “If there were no internal propensity to unite in the molecule itself, it would be physically impossible for love to appear higher up with us. We should assume its presence in everything that is.”4 Thus atoms embrace and molecules are formed, and molecules embrace and cells are formed up into the macro level of creation, where peacocks developed their spectacular tail feathers because peahens fall in love with beauty and choose those with the most beautiful tail displays for mating.
So in Taurus we’re tuned into a physical and instinctive level of Venus, and, befitting in the first trigant, we express beauty in our personal appearance and creativity. Thus we delight in beautifying ourselves and our surroundings, and enjoy the pleasures of eating, drinking and making love on the way to learning to fulfil our needs. This may look self-serving, but the Taurus challenge is to create a firm earthy foundation for our life, and, until this has been achieved, we’ve every right to be self-centred. If we fail to take responsibility for fulfilling our own needs on the Taurus rung of the ladder, up on the Libra rung we’ll be pressurizing our partner to do so – not a good thing in a relationship!
Maltese Venus from the Age of Taurus
The renowned Taurus fault of possessiveness can be explained by the limited view of life as seen from the first trigant. There it’s all about ‘me, me, me’, so it’s hard for Taurus to see other people as separate beings with their own rights and needs. Instead she’ll see them as extensions of herself, and won’t want to let them go aw losing them is like losing an arm or leg. So Taurus will cling to things and people when their sell-by date has long passed.
When the first rung of a ladder is missing the whole structure is wobbly. So, if the Taurus archetype is big in our chart, our primary task is to stabilise the first rung of the ladder of love, which we do through learning to love ourselves. Self-love is so basic that we cannot really love others if it’s lacking. And we should love and value our self as we are and not as we should be. It’s a precondition for being loved and valued by others. Also, if we don’t love ourselves we’ll lack confidence in our attractiveness and our value as a partner, which will mess things up on the Libra rung.
When we reach this second rung there’s a change of focus. Mind dominates over body on the middle rung, and romantic love over physical love. As Libra is an air sign we formulate our ideas and values concerning love and relating here, and begin a search for the ideal partner and the perfect marriage, prepared to put a lot of time and effort into attaining this.
Libra is a second trigant sign, so we become more focussed on the other than on our self here. We fall in love with beauty in the other rather than aspiring to be their beautiful love object as was the case with Taurus. So, on the Libra rung we use the cardinal energy of the sign to attract and charm in order to create relationships which we hope one day will result in a marriage, as we are uncomfortable with being single and need a partner at our side. However, once the echoes of the marriage bells have receded, there follows the nitty-gritty of married life together. And aesthetic Libra is severely challenged in his role as lover during the daily quarrels about whose turn it is to empty the garbage can. But on this middle rung of the ladder of love our task is to acquire relationship skills, and these can only be mastered the hard way.
If the Libra archetype is highlighted in your chart, and you find yourself on the second rung, make a note that in a relationship love should be given and received in equal measure. The Libra scales need to be balanced continually concerning give and take, because, if one partner always gives way and lets the other dominate, an imbalance results that’s frustrating for both sides.
Libra is about justice, and we must always be fair to our partner, and always be ready to cooperate and compromise. A good piece of grandmotherly advice here is “Don’t compromise on your choice of partner, but compromise a little bit every day after that.” That way we discover that compromise and co-operation are expressions of love too. We also find the airy Libra Venus ready to help us develop our communication skills. We learn from her that the secret of successful relating is being able to talk things over and –most important – to listen to the other.
A common problem inherent in the Taurus-Libra quincunx, with its built-in incompatibility between earth and air, is a conflict arising between physical and mental needs. For example we may have married our partner because we have common interests and we can talk, but then we discover he shies away from physical affection and there’s not enough sex. Or our partner handles money in an alarming way, spending it all on going out and socialising rather than saving for the down payment on a flat. After the divorce we’ll find ourselves sliding down a snake back to the first rung of the ladder to repeat the Taurus lesson of self sufficiency. (Yes, the ladder of love also has its snakes!)
However, when we’re able to put the happiness of our partner first without compromising our own, we’re ready to leave the Libra rung and mount higher. Having progressed from ‘I’ consciousness to ‘we’ consciousness, we arrive in the sphere of Pisces Venus, where love and beauty are non-verbal emotional experiences. We’re up to our necks in mutable water here and Neptune, Pisces’ ruler, blurs the contours and erases the boundaries between mine and thine.
In the 3rd trigant Venus has a collective dimension that expands love beyond the narrow bounds of the one-to-one relationship. This doesn’t necessarily mean Pisces is promiscuous, but it explains why her love seems cool and impersonal. As one puzzled husband of a Pisces once said, “I feel very loved by you, but then I’m taken aback when I see you being just as loving to everyone you meet.” Perhaps St. Paul’s word caritas (charity) best describes the Pisces expression of love. Caritas is like a rose exuding its perfume for all who pass by rather than giving it to one individual.
However the third rung of the ladder of love is tricky to negotiate, and the danger of failing and sliding down a nasty snake looms. Pisces is not at home in our ordinary drab world, always yearning to escape. And falling in love can be one of the drugs she uses to this end. Thus she becomes addicted to its ‘highs’, which may explain her lack discrimination in her choice of partners. As long as they trigger an emotional intoxication nothing else matters.
If the Pisces archetype is prominent in your chart, and especially if you have Venus in Pisces, you may still carry the fantasy image of your perfect soulmate, still believing there’s someone out there ‘meant’ for you. Then you’ll squander your feelings on a dream lover, leaving none for your flesh and blood mate. May be you have a pattern of playing sacrificial victim in your relationships, and, believing this is a sign of unconditional love, you allow exploitation and abuse. Pisces has a fatal habit of fastening on partners who are bad for them, and casting her pearls of love before swine. The trouble is she tends to see the angel in the one she loves, turning a blind eye to his reality as a flawed human being. If this is you, find a snake quickly and slide back down to the lower rung to repeat the Libra lesson of balanced relating.
A typical situation triggered by the Libra-Pisces quincunx is when a split arises between our relationship and our commitment to our spiritual path. The medieval lovers Heloise and Abelard, both extremely devout, ended up in separate monasteries, where they pined away, dreaming of each other and conducting their love affair through out-of-the-body trysts no doubt. Perhaps in their next lives in order to repeat the Taurus and Libra lessons, they met, fell in love again, got married and grew to hate each others’ guts!
As the saying goes, it’s easier to love humanity than to love your mother. In the third trigant spiritual love can seem easier than human love, but there are no short cuts up the ladder. We have to matriculate on the lower rungs before we can embrace the full potential of the Pisces Venus. For example, our experience of relating to the outer man or woman in Libra prepares us for the union of our inner man and woman in Pisces, but only after we have lost our egos. And egos are the greatest barrier to love. The sage Osho has said that true love can never flower between two egos; only between two non-egos. When the ego no longer distorts it, beauty is experienced in the heart and becomes a channel to the divine, and loving has the quality of devotional prayer.
Finally in the upper reaches of the Pisces rung we may experience a ‘unio mystica’, melting and merging with our beloved if only for fleeting moments. Yes, the Pisces Venus can offer us glimpses of the bliss of oneness, which we find only to lose again, because while we’re in a physical body our consciousness must remain dual creating the illusion of separateness.
Then we get a shock. Just when we thought we had made progress we discover that the ladder of love is a yod. There’s a third aspect to it – a sextile linking Pisces and Taurus. We follow it and find we’ve turned a full circle and returned back to base camp. As always, in the end is a new beginning.
1 Phoebe Wyss ‘The Quality of Time’ www.astrophoebe.com/articles 2 Sir Thomas Browne ‘In the Garden of Cyrus: or the Quincuncial Lozenge’ 1658 3 Robert Hand ‘Planets in Transit’ 1976 4 Teilhard de Chardin ‘The Phenomenon of Man’ 1961
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