Delineation Basics

Maritha Pottenger

When people first begin to interpret horoscopes, the familiar lament is, “But how (where) do I start?” People stare sadly at an array of symbols on a sheet of paper, and feel lost in a mass of details. The Dobyns approach simplifies learning the basic principles of astrology into twelve major themes or ways of being in the world. Similarly, the Dobyns approach to delineation is basically a search for repeated themes in a horoscope. Anything which is important in the character and in the life, will be repeated—said in more than one way—in the horoscope.

To briefly review for those not familiar with the Dobyns approach: her thesis is that each of twelve groups of planets, signs and houses shares a basic theme, kind of energy, way of being in the world. That is, Mars, Aries and the First House all symbolize one’s basic desire to do what one wants, right now! They are all keys to one’s own assertive energy. Naturally, they are not identical in expression—planets are keys to action and we place emphasis on houses before signs. However, thinking of them as sharing a common theme will help tremendously in interpreting a chart. Dr Dobyns talks in terms of twelve basic astrological letters where letter One is Mars, Aries and the First House; Letter Two is Venus, Taurus, and the Second House, etc.

This column will suggest a few ways to pick out major themes in a horoscope. Remember, the same theme can be emphasized by signs, houses and planets. Perhaps the easiest theme to spot in many charts is that of a stellium. (A stellium is a group of three or more planets in the same sign or in the same house.) A stellium places an emphasis on the side of life symbolized by that sign or house. Already, with three or more planets involved, that “letter of the astrological alphabet” (i.e. that sign or house) is being repeated three times (or more). So we know it is important in the character. Usually, of course, a stellium emphasizes a particular sign-house combination. In the example chart, of an unidentified male, there is a stellium of two planets, an asteroid and a Node of the Moon in Aries in the Tenth house. So we have a 1-10 combination (in terms of the Dobyns’ astrological alphabet) combination repeated four times.

Combinations can be picked up in other ways as well. Planets in each other’s signs or one another’s houses can also repeat a theme. Mars in Capricorn or Mars in the Tenth House (neither of which is present) would have been another 1-10 combination. Similarly, Saturn in Aries and Saturn in the First House (which are also not present) would be still more 1-10 combinations—or 10-l if one wants to be pedantic.

Aspects should not be neglected. Aspects are second only to planets in importance. Any aspects between Mars and Saturn add to the 1-10 combination emphasis. Aspects involving Aries and Capricorn or First House and Tenth House are also 1-10 combinations, but less emphatic than the other mixtures. In this case, we have Saturn in Capricorn squaring the North Node, Uranus and the Sun in Aries (three more counts for 1-10). Furthermore, Vesta in Capricorn is square Juno, North Node, Uranus and Sun in Aries (four more counts for 1-10). actually, we could count the Saturn in Capricorn aspects twice—once for Saturn and again for the Capricorn. Additionally, Pluto in the First House (in Cancer) is square North Node, Uranus and Sun in Aries in the Tenth House (3 more 1-10 emphases). And Mars (in Leo) in the first house is trine Juno in Aries in the Tenth House. (Another 1-10 combination, but this one is not a conflict aspect.) A Mars trine the Tenth House is one more 1-10 combination, and any planet in the first trine the tenth house is still another 1-10 combination. So, we have a grand total of 19 repetitions of the 1-10 combination in this chart. Obviously, it’s important!

Just beginning with this: 1-10 combinations show an identification with or an awareness of power. (Also, an identification with work and career and usually with father or father figure.) On the one hand, it can symbolize the ambitious over-achiever who wants to run the world, tries to do everything. He may be a super productive steam roller or he may constantly butt his head against the walls of authority and the limits of the world. 1-10 can also go into self-blocking. The individual is SO aware of the power of the world, he stops himself from fear of being hurt, put down, punished by authority figures or his own conscience. He is afraid of failure, so he doesn’t even try. Or he may say, “If I can’t do it my way, I won’t play.”

Control is an issue in 1-10 combinations. One extreme seeks to control the world and may fall prey to overweening ambition. The other extreme over controls the self and blocks himself from action. There is also an inner conflict between the Aries need for freedom, variety and change, and the Capricorn need for stability, structure and security.

Another way to notice themes is with element or quality emphases. Too often, however, the beginning astrologer is taught only to count occupied signs in assessing the strengths of elements and qualities. This is a serious error. Houses are vital and must be considered in any analysis of elements and qualities. Aspects and placements of planets are also very important. Presented elsewhere in this issue is an article on one weighting analysis system, which is NOT presented as a final answer, but as an example to illustrate some of the issues involved and to spark discussion and thought.

In terms of the weighting analysis (presented in a separate article) we have an individual who has a tremendous amount of fire (which tends to combine with water and with earth) while his air also tends to combine with earth. He also has a lot of cardinality, much of which is pure cardinal-cardinal mixtures. After that, his fixed combines much more than his mutable with his cardinal. Of course, a professional astrologer could get a similar picture in terms of elements and qualities without using a formal system, assuming s/he looked at houses as well as signs.

Just from this much, what interpretations can we make? A strongly fire person would tend to be very active, confident, outgoing, expressive. Since the fire combines often with water, we have a fair amount of the steam potential—a conflict between holding in (water) and going out (fire), especially emotionally. Very intense emotionality is suggested since both elements are warm and caring. The fire-earth combinations also abound which are the steamroller—a person who knows what s/he wants and goes after it! This is a very effective combination although those people around a steamroller sometimes feel like victims of a hit and run.

The strong cardinality suggests someone who will have an active life and probably an impact on the world. Particularly, the cardinal and fixed mixtures are prone to power struggles. Regardless, the strong cardinality suggests the entire cardinal dilemma as outlined by Zip Dobyns: a conflict between freedom, closeness, equality and control. If we just look at the aspects between the planets in cardinal signs, we can see that this person has essentially two grand crosses in cardinal signs, which are also mostly in cardinal houses. (Vesta and Jupiter alone are in Mutable Houses.) Aspect configurations (e.g. grand crosses, T-squares, grand trines, etc. often pin-point major themes as well.)

The active cardinal crosses suggest this person may have some challenges in the area of relationships, since he is torn between being totally free, an equal, close and attached or in control. Our two major keys to lesson or challenge areas in a chart are Saturn and the South Node of the Moon. One of the first things to do with them, is to see if they pick up a common theme. E.g., sometimes they will be in the same sign or house (even conjunct sometimes). Sometimes they will be in the same element or quality (whether by sign or house). In this case, Saturn and the South Node share a Letter Seven emphasis. Saturn is in the Seventh House and the South Node is in Libra (the seventh sign). They also both share the cardinal emphasis, both being in cardinal signs and in cardinal houses. We would assume, then, that this person’s major challenge in life is learning to relate as an equal other. Probably this person sees the struggle as one between dominance and dependency, rarely finding the equality in between. (Saturn in Capricorn seeks dominance; South Node in the Fourth House brings in the dependency side.)

Another way to pick up themes in a chart is to look for combinations or emphases on those letters of the astrological alphabet which share certain attributes. E.g., letters 2, 7, and 12 all share a feeling for beauty, an artistic sense. Letters 6, 8 and 10 are the obsessive-compulsive letters. Similarly, the power letters are l, 5, 8 and 10. We have already noticed a huge emphasis on personal power (which could go into self-blocking) with all the 1-10 combinations in this chart. If we look, we can see that there is still more of an emphasis on power.

The First House (including our rising sign) indicates our basic identity, how we spontaneously express ourselves in the world. We first notice Pluto right on the Ascendant. Pluto, as ruler of Scorpio is a letter 8 planet, so here we have more identification with power—with a vengeance. And Mars is also in the First House, in the fifth sign of Leo—another power identification, quite a l-5 mixture. Furthermore, the Moon, as ruler of the Cancer Ascendant, is in the Fifth House—more Letter 5 and more power emphasis tied to the self.

But is this power going in (and perhaps against the self) or out? And if out, is it being used constructively, or to fight the world? Pluto, in Cancer, right on the Ascendant is a strong fire-water mixture, which adds to the self-blocking (steam) potential. Pluto tends to go inward, process inside, hold in—as does all water. There can be an intense inner probing, and a push for self-control (which can go into over-control). Similarly, the Moon (ruler of the Ascendant) is a water planet (tending to hold in) but is in a fire house and fire sign which both want to pour out and express in the world. Additionally, Jupiter (a fire planet) is also in Cancer, back in the Twelfth House, but close enough to be conjunct the Ascendant, giving still more fire-water mixture. So, we have some explosive potential, here, where the water could hold in, hold on for too long, and eventually the fire would blow the lid. Or, we could have a person who vacillates between extreme withdrawal and inwardness (with the water) and periodic intense extroversion and activity in the world (the fire). But whether it is directed within in self-examination or without in seeking the limelight, we see an individual concerned with, identified with, seeking power. (In this particular chart, the nodes of the planets were also quite active. One of the closest aspects was the North Nodes of both Saturn and Pluto conjunct the Ascendant—another vote for personal identification with power.)

Fortunately, given the intense need for power present here, there are indications of some idealism and caring to soften it. Jupiter conjunct the Ascendant (from the Twelfth House) is a strongly idealistic placement. Both letters 9 and 12 are idealistic, perfectionist letters—seeking an absolute, a better world. Then, the Moon (ruler of the Ascendant) is in the sign of Sagittarius (again, letter 9) and trine Mars in the First (so at harmony with basic self-expression) and Juno in the Tenth (plus the North Node of the Moon, Sun and Uranus more widely). The Sun is also a ruler of the First (since there is some Leo in the First House). The Sun conjunct Uranus, although potentially very rebellious and self-willed (a Uranus-Aries combination), also gives the potential for the tolerance, recognition of the rights of others, value of equality of Uranus. And Cancer rising adds to the compassion, caring, concern for others, while Pluto on the Ascendant gives a strong recognition of the other, a need to be relating with another human being.

However, we do not know from a chart whether an individual’s values and ideals are in line with society’s or not. We expect that this person will temper his push for control with some idealism and caring for others, and listen to his values of morality, righteousness, etc. But for all we know, his values are totally at odds with those of society. All that Aries in the Tenth could certainly go into self versus society, his individuality, uniqueness and way of doing things at odds with the limits and structure of the world. We do have the revolutionary potential here. If he harnesses his fire trines and all his fire-earth strength, however, we would expect an incredibly strong individual who is an earth-mover.

In terms of a possible career or work area for this individual, we would look to the Sixth and Tenth Houses, including their natural and actual rulers. In this case, our Aries stellium in the Tenth suggests first that his work needs to be his own thing, preferably unique with Uranus there, but allowing him some adulation, admiration from others with the Sun present. Partnership or relationships are indicated with Juno present, but the need for control and doing his own thing seems too strong to work really well in a business partnership. We could envision work involving relationships such as counseling or consulting, where he retains the control. Neptune ruling the Tenth suggests his idealism is going to find some outlet in his work—working for a more beautiful or more perfect world. Neptune conjuncting Pallas in the Third House in Virgo suggests a strong mental emphasis—working with ideas, language, people. Any kind of communicative work—teaching, writing, etc. would be possible. Mars, another ruler of the Tenth, is in the First, emphasizing again that his work must be totally under his direction and yet give him some admiration, following from others. We suspect a strong sense of drama, and perhaps much charisma. Venus, the other ruler of the Tenth is in Pisces in the Ninth House. Again, the idealistic theme comes in with the mixture of 9 and 12 looking for perfection.

Vesta in Capricorn in the Sixth brings in an entirely different theme. Here, we have a strong workaholic potential—dedicated to the job, perhaps even at the expense of personal relationships. Critical, nit-picking, concerned with getting everything just right—all that goes with Vesta in Capricorn in the Sixth. Saturn in Capricorn in the Seventh (Saturn is the natural ruler of the Tenth and one of the actual rulers of the Sixth) again suggests the partnership potential in his work, but also the hardworking, critical, responsible orientation. (This was present to some extent earlier with Neptune in Virgo as well.) Jupiter, the other ruler of the Sixth in Cancer in the Twelfth House again brings in an idealistic theme. The Twelfth House gives us roles of artist, savior, or victim. And Cancer brings in the potential of warmth and caring for others.

To synthesize, we have a strong identification with work and a need to work with all the 1-10 combinations. The emphasis on Virgo and Capricorn also shows a strong need to feel competent, to achieve and to do a good job. This person needs a job under his own control, with a lot of variety and stimulation (the mutable emphasis and Aries). He would work most effectively in a field he felt was in some way making a better world, furthering his ideals, and would like some recognition, admiration for his work.

If he is not working effectively, we suspect he is a victim. He is probably into self-blocking and spends his time dreaming about being super-savior, gaining the adulation of millions, but never actually doing it. With the mutable emphasis (Neptune and Jupiter both involved plus the Virgo, Pisces, and Sagittarius emphasis) the whole area of the mind and values and faith is an important one. If he is out of touch with consensual reality, he may be fighting the world. Or he may—with the mutable emphasis—be torn as to which of his talents and abilities to pursue, which to follow. He may change work repeatedly, searching for the perfect job. Or he might have excessively high standards for himself, demanding that he do his work perfectly. Or he may have difficulties in the area of faith, lacking faith in himself (and self-blocking) or lacking faith in other people (and going into over drive, trying to do it all himself.) Since Mercury is trine (closely) Neptune and Pallas in a mental sign (Virgo) and a mental house (Third), we would expect him to have a good mind. Mercury is also sextile Venus in the Ninth (another mental house). Of course, the picture is always mixed, so Mercury is square Mars in the First and quincunx the Moon and Vertex in the Fifth. The latter aspects might involve the fixed dilemma of learning to handle (and share!) the material, sensual, pleasures of the world. The houses and signs also further involve the freedom-closeness dilemma—-where Sagittarius, the Eleventh House, and Mars and the First House all yearn for freedom, while Leo, the Fifth House and the Moon want closeness. In addition to his Mercury aspects, just having Jupiter conjunct the Ascendant adds a mental emphasis (usually ability) and identification to the chart.

Despite the Cancer rising with Pluto right there, this chart is very much a freedom-oriented and somewhat impersonal one. That is, he is likely to be very in touch with his own needs for space and doing his own thing with the Aries and First House emphasis. The Sagittarius adds to the freedom side. Capricorn wants control and tends to avoid closeness for fear of being hurt, put down, rejected. Virgo is fairly impersonal, valuing work with relationships sometimes considered less important. And Pisces, although idealistic, thinks in terms of humanity at large and is not terribly interested in relating to one person on a close, intimate level. Ditto for Uranus and Aquarius. So, it appears that this person, even if he forms relationships in his work, will maintain the control, and a certain amount of distance.

What are the hopes of his forming a long term equalitarian relationship? Well, one way of handling letter 10 mixed with letter 7 is to work with a partner, so you can be task-oriented together, and turn the critical analysis of Capricorn into the work rather than at each other. Of course, some people project that Saturn or Capricorn quality and look for a father figure to do everything, to be responsible for them. And others are only comfortable in relationships where they play father—doing it all, running the show. With the emphasis on power in this chart, we would suspect this is a man who would want to keep the control in his own hands. Probably, despite his Cancer rising, he has trouble accepting his own dependency needs (South Node in the Fourth); he fears losing both his control and his freedom—which are terribly important to him. Additionally, he tends to be very critical and judgmental of others, having very high standards where others are concerned. (7-10 combinations and often 7-6 mixtures tend to be critical—and expect others to be critical back—in relationships.) And he may very well be looking for an impossibly perfect person or relationship. Pallas, one key to a partner, is conjunct Neptune (looking for the emotional absolute). Juno, another partnership asteroid, is in the Tenth—more critical perfectionism. And Venus, another ruler of Libra, is in Pisces in the Ninth House—a double whammy of looking for perfection in relationships. Saturn, ruler of the Seventh House, is in the Seventh in Capricorn—the 10-7 combination we mentioned. And Uranus, another ruler of the Seventh and Eighth, is again in the Tenth House.

With the Aries emphasis, he might just decide that unless he could have a relationship his way, he would rather keep his freedom. For those people with strong freedom needs, a mixture of the perfectionistic letters (9, 12) with the critical, judgmental letters (6, 10), often results in someone who sets the standards so incredibly high for relationships and relating, no human being could reach them. There is no way anyone could be THAT perfect. Thus, the person gets to feel, “I’m looking; I just haven’t found the right person.” And the individual keeps his/her freedom and control which is what s/he really wants anyway.

To sum up: We see here an individual who has strong needs to be in power, to retain control. He may go into extremes of over controlling himself or trying to run the world. We suspect he has some conflicts between going within and concentrating on his inner life and processes versus going out into the world and being involved with people. His work is very important to him. If he is handling his potentials, he is probably in work which involves a lot of variety and mental stimulation. It may involve some kind of counseling or consulting work where he relates to people, but maintains the major control and power. He could function best in work that is his own thing and provides him with some adulation from others and a sense that he is making the world a better or more beautiful place. If he is not working effectively, he may be a victim, and a self-blocker. He may be a job-hopper, constantly searching for the perfect job, or never satisfied with how he does his work, always wanting it to be more perfect. If he is working effectively, he needs to be wary of the other extreme of over drive, trying to do it all, unwilling to delegate authority.

He probably has an excellent mind, including some creative imagination (Neptune), but he may have many interests and goals and sometimes be torn as to what to pursue. It is important he has sufficient faith (in himself and others) lest he be more likely to go into self-blocking or over-drive. He tends to be somewhat impersonal and distant, perhaps task-oriented in relationships. He is probably uncomfortable with his own dependency needs and keeps others away through seeking perfection and focusing on the flaws. This enables him to retain his freedom and control which are so important to him. Establishing a long term equalitarian relationship may be a challenge for him; he may tend to turn relationships into one-up, one-down power struggles. He would tend to father or be fathered in relationships. Yet, given the warmth (fire-water) and intelligence of the chart, the potential is there for him to meet this challenge as well.

If he does get involved with a home and family, a lot of his nurturing (Cancer) side will probably come out there (with Ceres in the Fourth and the Moon in the Fifth.) But he will have to be careful not to expect perfection (Sagittarius in the Fifth) with his children either. If he can learn with someone to take turns fathering and being fathered, he can probably manage an equalitarian relationship. The chart suggests he is quite charismatic, dramatic, bright, caring, idealistic and hard-working.

Would you believe this is the chart of a rebel psychologist turned New Age guru, now known as Ram Dass!

Copyright © 1978 Los Angeles Community Church of Religious Science, Inc.

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