Those Wild Out-of-Bounds Planets

by Pamela Welch
(Originally published in The Mountain Astrologer magazine. Republished in remembrance of Pamela, who passed away in March 2012.)

Everyone has probably heard that old familiar sports term: “Out-of-bounds!” Regardless of the sport involved, these words mean that the ball or player has gone beyond the limits of the established field of play. Could a similar dynamic be impacting the planetary play on the field of your birth chart? You bet! Out-of-bounds planets can take us beyond the established limits of thought and action. They can signify extraordinary genius or point to volatile and aberrant behavior. This article will explain the principles involved in out-of-bounds dynamics, show how these planetary elements can operate in a person’s life and discuss ways to interpret how these natal energies will manifest.

How Planets Go Out of Bounds

Out-of-bounds planets involve two dynamics: declination and the ecliptic. The ecliptic is the apparent path of the Sun in its yearly motion across the sky. Of course, in reality we know that it is not the Sun that is moving, but rather the Earth that is orbiting around the Sun. Thus, the ecliptic is actually the plane of the Earth’s orbit. Usually when we speak of astrological coordinates − for example, “My natal Saturn is at 14° Virgo” − we are giving the planet’s position in geocentric celestial longitude. This measurement, which is part of the ecliptic coordinate system, expresses the planet’s distance along the ecliptic from 0° Aries as viewed from Earth. However, in addition to this system which uses the ecliptic as its reference point, we also have what’s called the equatorial coordinate system which uses the Earth’s equator rather than the ecliptic as its plane of reference. Declination, which measures the angular distance of a heavenly body north or south of the celestial equator, is part of this equatorial system.

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Sensitive Points in the Stonewall Riot Chart

by Frank Clifford

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in The Mountain Astrologer February/March 2016 issue and has been repulished with permission.

Stonewall riotsThe four-day uprising on June 28, 1969 that started at the Stonewall Inn — during which gay patrons fought back against police harassment — marked the beginning of the American gay liberation movement. Just days earlier, Uranus had made its final ingress into Libra. It was an explosive time in history: a time to fight  for equality, to be intolerant of intolerance, and to “come out” from behind the veils of secrecy and shame — the blacked-out walls of gay bars. By the time Pluto entered Libra two years later, there were gay rights groups in every major American city and many other countries.

The chart we'll look at (below) is for the moment the police raided the bar. (1) Author Edmund White (with Mercury at 11° Capricorn) wrote of the mood of that first evening: “Everyone’s restless, angry, and high-spirited. No one has a slogan, no  one even has an attitude, but something’s brewing.” (2) The  Moon was in Sagittarius (on the U.S. Sibly chart’s Ascendant) opposite Mercury in Gemini; Mars was in Sagittarius, too. It was a call to arms, a time to fight physically and vociferously  for freedom and  pride.

Various commentators have offered rationales as to why this particular raid inspired such resistance from Stonewall’s regulars — from the fact that “there was a Full Moon, to the recent death and funeral of Judy Garland, and the astrological explanation that Mars was in retrograde, a bad time for police action.” (3) What we do know is that the aggressive perpetrators (Aries Ascendant, ruler Mars in Sagittarius) were once again  out to harass the gay patrons (Libra Descendant, ruler Venus  in stubborn Taurus exactly conjunct asteroid Stone!) and charge the tavern for serving liquor without a license (Midheaven ruler Saturn in the 1st).

Still, Mars was indeed retrograde (as it had been when the Inn opened on March 18, 1967) and conjunct Neptune in  the 8th house. There was a melee: People resisted arrest, escaped from the paddy wagon, and fought back by throwing cobblestones and bottles. To add to the drama, drag queens formed a high-kick chorus line of “Ta-ra-ra-Boom-de-ay” to mock the arresting officers! When a fire was started, a  lack of water pressure in the hose compounded law-enforcement impotence (Mars–Neptune). The police were stonewalled, humiliated, scared, injured, and vengeful. Violence escalated, arrests were made, and by 4:00 a.m. it was over for the night. But this was just the beginning.

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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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