Critical Points: The First and Final Degrees of a Sign

by Frank Clifford

Editor’s Note: This article appeared in The Mountain Astrologer December 2012 and is reprinted with permission.

Manu Jobst Kunstfabrik ButterflyIn this column, I’ll be looking at the first degree and, in particular, the last degree of a sign and their significance. I've chosen three examples where the Sun is at 29° of that most enigmatic sign, Scorpio.

The Ingress

When a planet is at the very beginning of a sign, it has moved into new territory (a new element and mode) and is in dialogue with that sign's planetary ruler.

In the natal chart, planets or points at 0° of a sign take a stance that either indulges in or embraces the very pure, undiluted nature of the sign. There's a fresh, unstudied quality to a planet at this degree. Some of the most familiar, prima facie traits linked to that sign will be obvious in the person's nature, but the sign's true essence and the challenges the planet must face and embrace on its journey are just being discovered and are yet to be mastered. Simply put, there's a new language to learn and much work to be done. Embarking on this voyage, the planet at 0° appears highly eager to encounter that which it will become.

When a planet Solar Arc directs to a new sign, this indicates a "year of getting to know and beginning to experience the essence of that sign In some ways it's a portent - a signpost indicating much of what we can expect for the next thirty years condensed (and intensely heightened) into the first twelve months." (1) Astrologer Fernando Guimaraes suggested to me that the first degree is like an "operatic overture," an introduction that sets the mood for what will follow.

The Middle Degrees

Planets or points at the middle degrees, from 14° to 16°, appear to be truly entrenched in that sign's raison d’être. When in a cardinal sign, the planet/point is fully engaged in the process of moving forward and encountering challenge and conflict. In mid fixed degrees, the planet is at its most permanent, solid, and durable but sometimes becomes stagnant or stuck. In mutable, it is at its most versatile and diverse but precarious, scattered, and prone to fluctuation and instability.

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Richard Tarnas on Saturn vs. Uranus

In 2008 Louis CK appeared on the Conan O'Brian show. A clip from the show titled "Everything's Amazing Nobody's Happy" was released on YouTube and went viral. This had to do in part with the material being highly resonant with the Saturn-Uranus cycle at the time, which was also strongly in aspect to Louis CK's natal chart. Because of this, the clip is a great window into the Saturn-Uranus dynamic.

Watch the Louis CK clip below. Then watch Richard Tarnas' explanation of the transits and the archetypes at play in the video.

Louis CK "Everything's Amazing Nobody's Happy"

Richard Tarnas on the Saturn-Uranus Archetypes in Louis CK's Video

The Anatomy of a T-Square

by Frank Clifford

Editor’s Note: This article appeared in The Mountain Astrologer and has been abridged from sections presented in the author’s book, Getting to the Heart of Your Chart: Playing Astrological Detective, Flare Publications, 2012.

T-SquareA t-square is formed when (at least) two planets in opposition (180°) both aspect a third planet by square (90°). This third planet, known as the focal planet or apex, is situated around the midpoint of the opposition. All three “legs” should be within an acceptable orb of each other (8°). It is estimated that some 40% of charts have planets that form this pattern.


In general, astrological aspects show a dialogue between planetary principles/ energies, but the t-square configuration is a dynamic pattern that links and inter- locks these energies. It usually dominates a horoscope and can be seen in the central “scripts” — the major events, challenges, and themes — that are encountered in life.

By its very nature, a t-square ties up at least three houses in the horoscope, and if we take into account each leg’s rulership of other houses, this configuration can link even more.

Where to Start: The Aspects

Getting to the potential meaning of a t-square can be a challenge for pro- fessional and student astrologers alike. (1) Before analyzing a specific t-square, we must take into account the actual aspects involved in the pattern: the opposition and the square.

The confrontational or divisive nature of the opposition demands an awareness and balance of the planets involved. Ideally, there can be an integration of these conflicting parts, or at least a truce. An opposition reveals major relationship patterns and themes, and it’s certainly the case that we tend to stick with the “nicer” of the two planets and project the more "difficult" one onto other people. Unless dissociate (out of sign), an opposition involves a polarity (e.g., Leo–Aquarius), and it’s important to understand the interplay between these signs.

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