Greetings, and welcome back to Journeys! Following up last month’s exploration of aspect interpretation I have some specific thoughts about the interpretation of the square aspect for you to consider.
The square, as might be expected, is an angle of 90° separating two objects in a chart. With the addition of standard orbs of influence (6°) this gives a range for the square aspect of between 84°-96°, however even if planets are not within this range of distance from one another they can still behave as if they are in a square-like relationship if they are in signs which naturally square one another (signs which are three signs away from each other). The essential quality of the square aspect is one of difference as the two placements have very little (but not nothing) in common with one another. This fundamental essence of difference causes or often leads to conflict, both internal and external, as two factors relentlessly try to force adjustments upon one other.
As a general rule, I ask myself three questions when looking at a square –
What does each of the planets want that the other denies, and how might this manifest?
How can their common ground get them to operate together?
What does this bring to each of the planets once accomplished?
The little that these objects have in common stems from their shared connection to one of the three Modes of the zodiac – Cardinal/Active, Fixed/Stable, and Mutable/Reactive – which describe how a particular Element is behaving, its mode of behaviour. We can say that the Cardinal/Active signs all initiate things, the Fixed/Stable signs all build things and the Mutable/Reactive signs all mutate and explore things. I will elaborate on this in the sections below, but remember that squares naturally involve signs of the same Mode, and have that in common. Thus the placements in this aspect are behaving similarly at a basic level but that is as far as it goes, since they are using a different Elemental approach to express that behaviour. Fire and Air signs always square Water and Earth signs, and vice versa, but both signs in a square will share a Mode. We can see then that the fundamental difference at the Elemental level is between the two Fluids, as the Electric signs (Fire/Air) square the Magnetic signs (Water/Earth). Thus the essential difference and conflict is between energy which is being radiated (or expressed as force) and energy which is being drawn in (or expressed as form). This detail alone can help you to interpret the square, for example a square between the Sun in a Fire sign and Mars in a Water sign has something to do with the way solar energy is radiated (as force) and the way Mars energy is drawn in (and put into forms).
The problem of the square is that the two Elements clash until and unless there is a true or partial equilibrium of Elements in the soul. This equilibrium, as far as the square is concerned, is based on the innate connection to that shared way of behaving (initiating something, building something or mutating/exploring) since it can become the basis for cooperation once the soul has matured to the point where it can integrate the differences and so unlock the enormous energy potential of the square. At this point, with the conflict being resolved, both placements will then greatly energise, motivate and push one another in less disruptive ways. There will still be pushiness between them but this has now been disciplined and has come under conscious control.
This means that in charts with many squares in operation there are two typical manifestations, one where the person is beset by many stresses and challenges, both internal and external, and one where the person is a dynamo of energies, a true force to be reckoned with, and frequently we see a bit of both and some see-sawing between them in the life. In fact there is often a direct relationship between the two as the stresses and challenges, once met, are what transforms the person into that force to be reckoned with. Conversely, charts lacking in squares can seem to have an easier time in comparison but it can get boring quickly and they can lack the impetus to do much of anything in life. The question for the astrologer and whoever the chart belongs to is how to unlock the creative power of the square, how to bring the differences into alignment. The overall context of the chart, as explained last month, is always an important consideration, as well as the houses of the planets in square and of course the nature of the planets themselves, but in this journey we are going to focus on the signs and what they bring to the basic interpretation of the square.
To organise this journey I will group all squares into the three groups of Modes, and I will cover all the squares of that mode. Each square will be considered twice, because I’m going to consider it from the point of view of an object placed within a particular sign. For example, there is a square between Aries and Cancer, but instead of just covering it once I’m going to talk about it twice, once from what the square is like from the point of view of an object in Aries and once from the point of view of an object in Cancer, because there is a subtle difference. Everything I write about each square is just an example to guide you, there are many ways a square can manifest, but this will show you that each sign has more than one kind of square that it generates, and they have very distinct qualities, and it will hopefully get you going with your own interpretations. One final point here to know is that dominance can be important in determining which planet “wins” or “loses” the conflict inherent in the square – a strong planet in its own sign (for example, Saturn rising on the ascendant in Capricorn) in a square with a planet in a sign of debility (Mars in Libra, for example) will probably dominate and oppress the urge represented by its weaker partner.
Cardinal/Active signs are about planets trying to initiate things, they are about what an Element does when it is active, its essential energy (raw force). Thus planets in square via these signs are trying to get very different things under way or the same thing under way using very different energies. They tend to try to override or directly attack one another and push us in different directions.
Aries/Cancer and Aries/Capricorn
Raise your shield or draw your weapon? Strike now or at the optimal time? Devastating and crippling blow, or turtling defence? Take a risk, or preserve what you have? Help by fighting off threats to the vulnerable, or by supporting them? These are some of the core issues in Aries squares, regardless of which sign it squares.
Forwards in the zodiac, from Aries to Cancer, the clash is between the will and emotions. The expression of the will stirs up opposition in the form of emotional reaction from others, in our own mood swings (we change how we feel about what we want in the early stages of going after it), or in situations where we struggle with timidity and conflicting instincts, for example. Internally there is insecurity about pursuing what we want because we are too sensitive to hurting the feelings of others, or conversely there is not enough sensitivity to hurting others feelings. Once unlocked the potential of the Aries planet is tempered by incredible instincts to protect bordering on the psychic and it also increases tactical acumen.
Backwards in the zodiac, from Aries to Capricorn, the clash is between the will and realities. The hot will or primal urge of the Aries planet meets with cold rules and traditions that constrain it and force it to obey, to potentially sap the life out of it. It feels the need to seek permissions. Internally it is often at war with itself because there are either too many rules or too much discipline placed upon the Aries planet or because the Aries planet wants to demolish the rules, to blast them out of the way. It can be tempted to cheat the rules out of contempt for them, something offensive to both Aries and Capricorn, leading to self loathing and disgust as well as to clashes with authority figureheads. Once such issues are resolved the Aries planet achieves much more because it knows how things get done in reality.
Cancer/Libra and Cancer/Aries
Get your own house in order or set things right elsewhere? Hide away or get out there in the field? Defend/armour against your attacker or disarm them? Be guided by tradition and habit or creativity and current fashion? These are some of the core issues in the Cancer squares.
Forwards in the zodiac, from Cancer to Libra, the clash is between the gut feelings/instincts and the intellect or mind and its reflection in social mores. Cancer/Libra squares raise questions like care for you, or care for me? Express loving devotion through carefully chosen words or through a warm meal? Hug and comfort, or weigh up the fairness of it all and try to set things right again? Let instincts be in balance with the judgment of reason, or let them be led by the gut? Issues are about what the right way to give and receive care might be, how to open up emotionally to others and how to be receptive to their feelings (without making them your own), mother issues, finding the right boundaries in relationships, dealing with tidal forces (up, down, back and forth), see-sawing moods and the need to seek confirmation from others. Internally there is a problem making choices that impact other people. Once the creative power here is unlocked it enables powerful abilities related to relationships of all kinds and a dynamic gift for peacemaking.
Backwards in the zodiac, from Cancer to Aries, there are passive-aggressive dynamics, a conflict between offense and defense, and an internal issue of confidence or security. Do we want to be a defender of the peace or a warrior of love? Float, or swim against the current? Armour that looks comfortable, or is spiked and threatening? Emotional compromise with competitors/rivals/enemies or shrewd, tactical strategies against them? Issues here are about assertion, with the central conflict being between the feelings and the will. Problems are often connected to a conflict between wanting to go at things directly (Aries) and sneaking up on them from the side (Cancer), which can result in a timid anxiety and paralysis. The Cancer planet feels confronted and threatened a lot and this can create great oversensitivity, over-protectiveness and defensiveness. Once this is overcome the caring side of the person becomes more active, courageous and powerful.
Libra/Capricorn and Libra/Cancer
Central to the Libra squares are choices and dilemmas which impact relationships, questions of where loyalties and priorities lie, methods by which lasting equality and harmony can be established, parental issues and the balance between following the rules as written and compassionately enacting them with sensitivity.
Forwards in the zodiac, from Libra to Capricorn, the clash is between the reasoning power of the mind and the way things are and have always been, between the need for relationship and the need for autonomy and self sufficiency, between the comforts of money and the comforts of love or art. Issues have the tendency to be father or authority related, to stem from too strict an adherence to rules and laws or not enough, and to be connected to a see-sawing between skepticism and trust in things turning out alright. The Libra planet is trying to understand the laws and rules that the Capricorn planet is dictating and is either feeling forced to adapt to them in ways that crush it or is trying to get the rule books re-written. There must be an inner realisation that fairness and wisdom must always temper the implementation of the rules, especially in relationships, and usually some relaxing of the rules. Once these squares stop being disruptive the person becomes a force to be reckoned with because they usually come to represent some kind of well regarded authority figure.
From Libra to Cancer the conflict is between the intellect and the emotions with the usual result that there is anxiety whenever it comes to making a choice that will affect others and insecurity in relationships. The Libra planet finds it has great empathy for the suffering of others and wants to nurture and care for that but it does not intuit the right way to express that affection. Consequently, this square often makes the person too protective of their loved ones or not nurtured in the way they need, with the same dynamic feeling like it applies to them as well. Issues are about not trusting the intuition or instincts enough, always questioning them and so diluting them, and when this issue is resolved this square becomes highly effective at discerning the truth through both intuition and reason as well as being a powerful diplomat and peace-keeper.
Capricorn/Aries and Capricorn/Libra
Here the squares are connected to issues of isolation and ‘loneliness at the top’, the pressures of responsibility, the sometimes harsh effects of a stern father or other authority figures, the need for extra effort and patience and the problems of desire or need for material things.
From Capricorn to Aries there are problems when it comes to enacting our plans, strong opposition to our designs, grueling marathons and ongoing situations that drain energy, issues with impatience and frustration, fatalistic defeatism, angry attacks on the authority of the Capricorn object and sometimes persecution and the effects of tyranny. The Capricorn planet is placed under pressures which hurry it up when it wants to proceed slowly and according to plan, there is an ongoing sense of urgency or time running out and an inner conflict between careful planning and bold action. When resolved these squares can unleash the enormous discipline of the Capricorn planet and put its wisdom into action.
From Capricorn back to Libra there are mental and social conflicts that can lead to isolation and loneliness, an inability to trust in relationships, difficult choices with no easy way to be fair to everything, miscarriages or travesties of justice, inequality issues making it difficult to rise to the top, the lack of fairness in government or reality or frigid indecision and impartiality. The Capricorn planet here is often split in some way by the Libran one, perhaps forcing it to operate by two different rulebooks. Issues are often connected to difficulties in truly opening up to others, always seeing both sides of the coin as dull, having to deal with the reality of a particular truth or the need to make adjustments to the way things have always been as a result of relating to other people. The Capricorn planet becomes empowered by an ability to consider and carefully weigh opposing points of view and in its capacity to relate.
Fixed/Stable signs are about planets trying to build with or collect/gather its Element into form (accumulation into form). They tend to accumulate blockages as resistance between the two placements becomes stubborn since they try to overpower the other by obstinate refusal to change and persistent attempts at control and dominance.
Taurus/Leo and Taurus/Aquarius
Central to the Taurus squares are issues of stabilization, energy or resource regulation and dependability. There is no quiet life for the Taurus planet to retreat into here and the squares generate many interruptions to normal routine. It’s like a bank account that fluctuates wildly from red to black or a forest filled with noisy wildlife day and night. Blockages accumulate (and as blockages will do, eventually explode) through efforts to impose standards or from excessive materialism.
From Taurus to Leo the issues are often connected to egoic stubbornness, resistance to any change to the status quo, with excessive pride or the lack of pride in ourselves, struggles with poverty and health, damage to property from fire, glamour seeking and gaudy love of showing off beauty or success (jewels, make-up, partying, etc.) or with matters of status. Blocks tend to stem the flow of vital energies and willpower. The Taurus planet has difficulty switching off because when at rest it feels it should be active, doing things, drawing attention or progressing, and so when the conflict is equilibrated the square becomes highly productive while at the same time learning how to allocate its energies robustly and resourcefully.
From Taurus to Aquarius there is instead a burning need to break the rules that conflicts with practical matters. Issues here are more often about our attitudes to society and humanity at large, the way resources are distributed, the constant invasion of chaotic forces into routine procedures, radical fluctuations of basic resources like cash or food, humanitarian issues, sharing and loans, inner conflicts arising from fractured value systems, stubborn rebelliousness or the need to break free of something. Blocks can be interpersonal, placing barriers between people and maintaining an emotional distance. The Taurus planet takes on too much work, scatters its vigor, is hit by quakes and beset by unpredictable storms, undergoes more than its share of chaos and looks hard for a reliable rock but cannot find one. It needs to find a way to work with the changes of the Aquarius planet, beyond which it finds its power, resources and energy greatly multiplied.
Leo/Scorpio and Leo/Taurus
The Leo squares concern self confidence, ego control issues and power or dominance struggles. The will seeks to secure itself emotionally and materially in grasping ways, thriving on challenges and defeating opponents, emphasises its own achievements and creates blocks by hogging attention and the spotlight or hoarding its power. However, once more positively expressed there is true champion and leadership potential.
From Leo to Scorpio the square is more vindictive, predatory and ruthless but also beset with more messy complications in expressing itself. The Leo object wants to shine and draw attention to itself or to be in a commanding position of leadership but the Scorpio planet hides and wants to operate in the shadows. Confidence in self-expression becomes complicated by mysterious emotions that require investigation, intensity and passion or zeal become fixations, victory and success are tainted with suspicions and internally there is too much attachment to the power of what we feel and hunger for praise. When this square is positively expressed the Leo planet is empowered by the passion and intensity of the Scorpio planet rather than bragging or being challenged, compromised and dimmed by it.
From Leo to Taurus the problems are often simpler but more dense and difficult to resolve, situations are strained by a lack of resources or funding, confidence or security are affected, the Leo object is confronted with the need to work hard to gain the brightness it craves, the need to have to do the unglamorous labour, its own inability to change or adapt (especially when things don’t work out) and creative or material blocks that refuse to budge. The Leo planet wants to spontaneously express itself in a creative light like a sunflower but the Taurus planet slows it down and dampens its inner fire with buckets of ordinary mud. The inner potential here is for the person to become extremely busy and productive, a creative powerhouse, and to behave in dynamic ways that lead to the generation of wealth and resources – a field of sunflowers after the physical effort has been put in.
Scorpio/Aquarius and Scorpio/Leo
The Scorpio squares are more about interpersonal and emotional issues, the need for revenge or a rematch, being unable to accept any defeat, feeling hungrily driven for more power or control and with intense emotions and the struggles to contain them. Strong feelings ripple from the Scorpio planet into the astral realm, drawing conflict, something to test their mettle against – in Leo it will draw a charismatic icon and in Aquarius, a mob.
From Scorpio to Aquarius the square is challenging because the emotions and passions are not only intense but multitudinous and thus more disorderly and chaotic. The Scorpio planet wants to focus in so that it can penetrate to the depths but the Aquarius planet wants to spread-sheet the awareness onto multiple targets at once and correlate the results. Conflict also arises because the Scorpio planet wants to conduct its investigations in private while the Aquarius planet needs to socialize and broadcast. Both of them, however, share common interest in the unknown or taboo and can use this as the basis for cooperation. When operating positively these squares bring powerful connections and persuasive skill, insight beyond the ken of other mortals, transformative inventions, breakthroughs and liberation.
From Scorpio to Leo there is too much focus in the Scorpio planet on itself, an inability to encompass other emotions and other equally passionate points of view, challenges that feel like life or death struggles, blockages arising from too much egoic stubbornness, retention of anger or negative feelings like spite, killer instinct that can lead us to extreme action or a burning need for the last laugh. The Scorpio planet wants to explore the darkness and probe the mysteries of the night but the Leo planet refuses to cooperate out of the sense that doing so will kill its light. The turning point of this square from the Scorpio angle comes when the need to control things is relaxed, allowing the Scorpio planet to just enjoy life more. This unlocks a lot of vital strength, psychic power and the ability to take command of ones own life (or lead others).
Aquarius/Taurus and Aquarius/Scorpio
These squares are commonly connected to change issues – the chaos of constant change, the resistance to change, the need to make it happen, the way we force change, etc. They also involve the way we interact with community and group awareness as well as generating challenges for our identity. Aquarius must have something to kick against, and, aside from Leo, Taurus and Scorpio make for its prime targets in the zodiac.
From Aquarius to Taurus the problems are things like not being basically trained in all the miracles we want to pull off, needing to constantly demolish normalcy so that normal life never materializes, draining your resources through too many projects, not being grounded enough, pushing for institutional change and meeting with great resistance, dealing with the effects of poverty or lack of basic supplies in a community, scientific ossification and dogma and physical issues that affect cognition or socialization. The Aquarius planet want to travel through hyperspace, worm-holing its way from one distant point to another, but the Taurus planet wants to walk there on all four hooves, slowly, taking in the view. Once equilibrated these squares bring about the ability to manifest radical new ideas into established methods without causing so much chaos that things break.
From Aquarius to Scorpio issues of freedom from bondage arise with the urge for independence and detachment in the Aquarius planet being undermined by the deep need for connection and control in the Scorpio planet. Messy emotional complications, temptations for forbidden or outlawed experience, jealousy, conspiratorial paranoia, suspiciousness and mental trauma are some of the characteristic challenges here. The Aquarius urge for freedom of movement gets blocked by Scorpio bonding, by the complication of having feelings that can’t be broken away from. The Aquarius planet need to accept these deeper feelings of attachment as parts of its freedom. Many occult and magical faculties can stem from this square and it can also positively manifest as great power to influence the masses, or on a more intimate level as a powerful network of loyal friends.
Mutable/Reactive signs are about planets using their Element in adaptable and explorative ways, in combinations or mixtures, and how an Element responds to change (transmutation). They tend to generate chaos and instability as the placements cause volatility in one another like chemicals reacting uncontrollably in a beaker.
Gemini/Virgo vs. Gemini/Pisces
The Gemini squares focus on challenges that arise in gaining clear answers to questions, problems with excessive change or chaos, social instability, edginess, nervousness/anxiety and mental clarity.
From Gemini to Virgo issues arise from too much attention to details and specifics, a cataloging of little fact-lets and trivia leads to infoglut, analysis paralysis, anxiety and nervousness, caustic words, excessive criticism of self or others and reducing everything to simple sums. The Gemini planet wants to diversify and to learn but it is confronted by a dull need to study and improve itself first, especially in the mental arena (both of these signs are ruled by Mercury). Constant micro-adjustments to thinking lead to constipation and confusion, experimentation goes awry, lessons have to be relearned and sometimes there is an interfering need to give friendly advice or help. When this square is operating more positively the Gemini factor is not overwhelmed by details because it has learned to discern and prioritize the pertinent facts, the most practical ideas and choices, and it usually displays a high level of intelligence in multiple intellectual topics.
From Gemini back in the zodiac to Pisces the emphasis shifts from too much attention to details and specifics towards an overemphasis on the essence of information with the Gemini planet trying to extract an overall meaning in answer to its questions but finding little that is concrete and lasting to hang them from. Whereas the Gemini/Virgo square is interested in every single detail the Gemini/Pisces square wants to know what the experience felt like and how it changed you. It is more chaotic than Gemini/Virgo is. Issues here are about more nebulous confusions concerning what we feel or others feel, what the purpose of suffering or the truth of mystical experience might be, impressionability and extreme emotional sensitivity to what other people say or feel, quagmires and quicksands, getting lost or feeling adrift at sea, leaks, being blown by the currents because you have no firm direction or issues with lying and deception or an overactive imagination. The Gemini planet needs to open up emotionally so that its reason can be guided by intuition, after which it finds its ability to grasp the essence of interactions and a strong talent for reading the room, sensing the movements of things and evasion, among other things.
Virgo/Sagittarius vs Virgo/Gemini
Squares involving Virgo generate challenges connected to efficiency, physical changes (especially things like reaction to allergies, diet, treatment and training), purity and helpfulness. Sometimes there is an excessive degree of humility, the person finding it challenging to take credit for anything, or a sense that what we do in service is unappreciated or taken advantage of, and quite often too much fussiness and worry.
From Virgo to Sagittarius there is a volatile exchange between Earth and Fire that can cause things to melt and mutate, a lava-like flow that can dislodge and disable, abrasive or burning bluntness, conflicts between the need to do things in a particular order and the instinct to race ahead, a lack of safety precautions, discontent and moralizing about right and wrong. The Virgo planet wants to improve and refine itself, to examine itself in detail, but the Sagittarius planet is a generalist, disinterested in the boring minutia compared to the bigger picture. Clashes arise from this dynamic. If the Virgo planet can look up from its microscope from time to time to wonder at the stars the Sagittarius planet will be satisfied and supply it with an archers keen instinct for the bullseye of truth.
From Virgo back in the zodiac to Gemini worry and constant flip-flopping of opinion are among the common issues, but it also produces various problems connected with being a busy-body, mental burnout, digestion (physical and mental), intellectual pedantry, too much complaining, moaning or whining, the chaos of too many cooks around the broth and sometimes issues with gaining appropriate social care. Too much inventiveness can be the problem – here the Virgo planet wants to categorize and order things but the Gemini planet keeps inventing new labels for them. When the issues of the square are resolved the energy released to the Virgo planet enables it to make faster calculations and evaluations and to recall all kinds of relevant facts when needed.
Sagittarius/Pisces vs Sagittarius/Virgo
The Sagittarius squares relate to the chaos that can come from exploration and discovery. These squares uncover things that shift overall meaning, thus forcing changes in what we believe, expose us to exotic material which mutates, cause us to change our overall direction frequently, increase our restlessness and can make us dogmatic.
From Sagittarius towards Pisces the square is highly volatile, the Fire and Water producing steam and cloud. The truth gets harder to see as mist covers it, the side effects of a clash between the driving will to know the truth and an overactive imagination. Idealism, crusading, preaching, indoctrinating and indulging can become issues and the Sagittarius/Pisces square is also a bit of a vagabond, a flirty nomad with a lover in every port. Everything is conceived on too large and grand a scale. The Sagittarius planet is driven by a spirit of adventure, it wants to strike out and explore, but the Pisces planet is too timid and passive to have adventures, it prefers the shelter of the coral rather than the vulnerability of the wide open ocean. When empowered this square can become extremely psychic and intuitive, able to perceive astral currents and therefore where things are going.
From Sagittarius to Virgo there is a sense of an instinct for roving becoming confined by details, a tendency to make mountains from molehills, conflict between our belief or philosophy and our need to serve and a high degree of talkativeness. Common problems involve dryness or soreness, giving insensitive or inappropriate advice, unintentional offenses (putting your foot in it), chaotic schedules, unfinished projects and a lack of confidence when left without backup. The Sagittarius planet here wants to expand horizons and open up the world while the Virgo planet wants to dissect it and then put it back together in a better state – one is geared towards being open to exotic and new materials, the other wants to examine them in a detached way. When positive this square serves the Sagittarius object with greater practicality, enabling it to venture even further than before.
Pisces/Gemini vs Pisces/Sagittarius
Pisces squares are connected to mysterious challenges without clear origins or solutions, boundary issues, psychic disturbances (most often from unconscious use or extreme sensitivity) and problems with emotional stability and calm. Sometimes there are existential challenges, conflicts that concern the meaning of life and spirituality, most often in finding ones path.
From Pisces to Gemini constant change is the nemesis as the square is like a storm at sea – high winds and forces that move things around are in full swing. A lack of center, excessive pliancy, sentimentality and too much flexibility foster high levels of chaos. Choices can be paralyzing as they stir up muddy emotional waters so there is a need to clarify and communicate what we feel more clearly. The square is also naturally able to see the various sides of issues, resulting in a lack of conviction generally. The Pisces planet wants to transcend words and touch the numinous in silence but the Gemini planet needs to talk about and comment on things. When positively expressed these squares produce new ideas out of the ether very easily as the imagination leads the intellect toward the insight it seeks.
From Pisces back in the zodiac to Sagittarius issues are more connected with belief systems and dogma. There is an excessive idealism or Utopian dreams without much thought or the resources to back them up. Issues here often relate to chronic impracticality, bending or warping truths to suit agendas, judgmental righteousness, mysterious bad luck (unconscious attitudes are at work), being too difficult to pin down and high levels of emotional restlessness. The Pisces object here wants peace and the Sagittarius planet is always ready for war. When the square operates more effectively the Pisces planet receives inspiration and guidance, its moral fibre is more robust and it senses danger instinctively with great ease.
OUT OF SIGN SQUARES
One final note – planets can still be in a square relationship but not in these signs if the square aspect takes place at the cusp (beginning or end) of a sign since then one planet can be in a non-matching sign of the zodiac. These squares are not as archetypal as other squares and therefore less “square” then they are but they still carry issues of conflict that need resolution. In these cases I generally place more emphasis on the nature of the planets that are in square rather than the nature of the signs.