Life is a Quincunx

Maritha Pottenger

Next up for analysis is the 3/10 quincunx.


The strongest form of a 3/10 conflict would be a quincunx between Mercury and Saturn. Although any aspect between Mercury and Saturn points to 3/10 issues, the quincunx itself carries the most restlessness, sense of incompatibility and potential projection. Harmony aspects imply that Saturnian principles (such as hard work, responsibility, career ambitions) will aid and abet Mercurial principles (such as learning, observing, communicating)—and vice versa. We may put a lot of effort into learning; our minds/tongues/hands could contribute to our careers, etc. Other conflict aspects (square, opposition, octile, tri-octile) show the need to make a place for both sides (either through moderation or through taking turns) or to prevent one from sabotaging the other. (If Saturnian principles are overdone to the detriment of Mercury, we may doubt or criticize our thinking or communication skills. If Mercurial motifs are allowed precedence over Saturnian, we may fritter away our time and attention, with little focus or productive accomplishment.) The conjunction says we will get Mercury/Saturn together (but it is up to us to make that positive rather than negative). We could have the professional (Saturn) communicator (Mercury), or limited (Saturn) logic (Mercury), or responsible (Saturn) relatives (Mercury), or many other possibilities.


Other variations of the 3/10 issues would include quincunxes between the 3rd and 10th houses, or between rulers of those houses. There could be quincunxes between planets in Gemini and planets in Capricorn. If other aspects repeat the 3/10 motif, integration is called for, but the degree of experiencing a “forced choice” or fork in the road, or challenge to getting both, is lessened.

The following would be forms of the “natural” quincunx, where we have 3 and 10, in some way, “in it together.” Like the conjunction, we are facing these two letters of the astrological alphabet in tandem, but the blending we make might be positive or negative.

1) Mercury in the 10th house

2) Saturn in the 3rd house

3) Any ruler of the 10th in the 3rd

4) Any ruler of the 10th in Gemini

5) Any ruler of the 3rd in the 10th

6) Any ruler of the 3rd in Capricorn

7) Mercury in Capricorn

8) Saturn in Gemini

9) Mercury or any 3rd house ruler conjunct Saturn or any 10th house ruler

10) Saturn or any 10th house ruler conjunct Mercury or any 3rd house ruler

Any aspects linking the 3rd and 10th houses, or Gemini and Capricorn planets, or rulers of the 3rd and 10th (natural and/or actual) repeat the 3/10 theme. The automatic mixing, however, is most likely with the conjunction. Where a conjunction is involved, we ARE dealing with both of these themes at once.


With the 3/10 quincunx, we are striving to make room in our lives for curiosity, theory, learning, relatives, the nearby environment, communication, flippancy, skimming the surface and restlessness as well as for productivity, responsibility, career drives, seriousness, perseverance, accomplishments, realism and facing the limits of life.

Here are some of the different parts of life we are trying to blend with the 3/10 quincunx:





















seeks variety







The 3/10 quincunx reminds me of the fable concerning the butterfly and the ant. The butterfly spent her days flying from flower to flower, drinking nectar and generally enjoying life’s myriad opportunities to learn, to explore, to play. The ant spent her days toiling, laboriously dragging foodstuffs to her home, storing up for the winter. This particular tale has the poor butterfly suffering a horrid fate with the onset of cold weather, while the foresighted ant dines comfortably on the fruits of her labors.

Real life offers times when discipline, effort, toeing the line and preparedness are truly valuable. If they make up one’s entire life, however, living tends to be a rather sterile, joyless experience. There are other times when it is appropriate to explore many byways, to compare and contrast experiences, to taste many parts of life, not terribly serious about any one. If we spend a lifetime in such a role, however, we will be dismissed as a dilettante, a floater, a parasite or worse.

People who are struggling to integrate this quincunx may play the butterfly role when the serious, dedicated, disciplined or hardworking ant role would be more appropriate. (How many bosses really want an employee who is a butterfly?) They may find themselves slipping into the cautious, controlled, inhibited ant side in social contexts when the butterfly role would be more useful. (The ant never gets the joke!)

Any quincunx includes the inherent danger of projection. Dividing up these roles is not uncommon among couples. For many people in our society, the traditional division of sex roles is that the man is to be the “strong, silent, responsible” (Saturn) one, while the woman is to be the talkative, friendly, scattered (Mercurial) one. You will also run into a number of couples where one partner does most of the work, carries most of the load (the “Atlas Syndrome” of overdoing Saturnian motifs), while the other partner just cannot quite get it together, is never quite organized, but can laugh at his/her foibles very charmingly. If people do not learn to share the roles, the butterfly person will become less and less capable, less and less organized, and the ant person will become more and more serious, more and more critical, more and more a workaholic.

One woman with her share of earth was married to such a butterfly creature. She described him as an “air plant”—existing without any visible means of support. Of course, when the relationship gets to such an extreme, people may not be able to get back into balance. But they must recognize the ISSUES, lest they fall into similar patterns in a later relationship. Shared responsibilities along with shared sociability is the answer!


Part of the 3/10 quincunx is striking a balance between the drive for a career, some sort of contribution to the world (10), versus the desire to chat, to pass the time of day, to communicate easily with those around us (3). People may feel that vocational demands cut into their social life, or they may feel that their involvement with neighborhood activities, relatives or other social obligations handicaps their professional ambitions. Family demands (especially siblings and collateral relatives who are Letter 3) may pull us away from professional accomplishments or vice versa.

A friend once claimed that every office has its “playboy” or “playgirl” whose role is to go around and chat with everyone else. These people are tolerated, he claimed, because they are so “nice” and “everybody likes them.” (I did temporary secretarial work throughout my college years and tend to agree with my friend’s assessment.) How can one dislike someone who is always friendly, asks about what you have been doing, and seems genuinely interested in you? Yet, such butterfly creatures not only do not do much of their own work; they interfere with the productivity of their coworkers.

Many an office, however, also has an individual who is overdoing the Letter 10 role—serious, dedicated, hardworking, but also critical, judgmental, and inclined to take over and take control (even when it is not within their official lines of responsibility). One office with which I am familiar has an individual overdoing the Letter 3 side (constantly “out to lunch” in several ways, talking regularly about superficial, non-work-related subjects with any and every employee he can, and generally oriented toward sociability rather than productivity). This office also has an individual overdoing the Letter 10 side—inclined to try to control too much, very concerned with the bottom line, a hard worker, etc.

Naturally, the Letter 10 individual (a woman as it happens) and the Letter 3 individual do not get along (although the person playing out Letter 3 is generally friendly to almost everyone). Also rather understandably, the Letter 10 person is experienced as abrasive and hard to deal with, while most people like the Letter 3 individual. (But some of his coworkers resent what they see as his carelessness and willingness to waste time.) Life involves compromises. Too much of anything can be uncomfortable. The extreme Letter 3 is resented for his willingness to skim the surface and avoid work, but the extreme Letter 10 is resented for her excessive seriousness, overconcern with productivity and tendency to dominate.

Properly handled, our social contacts can be an asset to our career, and our sense of responsibility and willingness to work can gain us brownie points with other people.


Another issue inherent in these quincunxes is the clash between equalitarian attitudes and the desire to dominate or control. All of air is equalitarian—relating to peers, people more or less on the same level as ourselves. Letter 10 sees life in hierarchical terms (and someone is at the top of the heap). Where Letter 10 wants rules, regulations, levels and order in people’s interactions, Letter 3 prefers to mix it all together, talk to anyone, throw in anything, be open to whatever happens.

This issue within the quincunx is closely tied to the “casual versus serious” conflict. With Letter 10, we take things very seriously, like the order of precedence in diplomatic affairs. With Letter 3, we are casual, wearing a Hawaiian shirt instead of a dress uniform. Formality is necessary and impressive at times (but can be quite stifling). Informality can be fun, but may sometimes gloss over useful rules and limits.

In terms of the outer world details, the 3/10 quincunx is the push/pull between father or fathering (rule-maker parenting) versus siblings and other relatives (who are on a more equal level). A quincunx might indicate actual separations or stress between an authority parent and a sibling (or relative), or it might point to inner tension between the parental (responsible/in control) role and the sibling (peer/sharing) role in our own lives.


Part of the openness of air is the capacity to consider alternatives. Letter 3 often enjoys comparing and contrasting things, people, and ideas. Letter 3 is scattered, but tends to be a stimulating conversationalist! With strong Letter 3, people often know a little bit about a wide variety of subjects. Part of the role of Letter 3 is idea-generator—the theory side of life. Letter 10’s strength is reality-testing, checking out perceptions against the physical world. Letter 10 is like the engineer of the zodiac: “But does it work?” Letter 10 represents the application (of whichever theories pan out). Clearly each would be impoverished if lacking the other. They can each contribute in their own way!


One of the differences between air and earth is that air can be quite content to TALK ABOUT and to OBSERVE, while earth wants to DO, to reap RESULTS and to AFFECT THE MATERIAL WORLD. People who have not integrated the 3/10 quincunx may be torn between saying and doing.

This is also a common division by projection. I know of several couples who feel “unloved” because their partner’s method of demonstrating love is different from what they define as love. The person who is living out the air side is very communicative, says “I love you” a lot and takes his/her partner’s silence and tendency not to articulate feelings as a lack of love. The person who is living out the earth side does things for his/her partner, carries through on responsibilities and feels hurt when the partner does not do as much for him/her. The one measures love through words; the other measures love through deeds. Unfortunately, both end up dissatisfied. They need a translator—someone to explain that both parties are expressing love in their own ways! (Although traditional sex role stereotypes put men in the earth position and women in the air position, I know couples with women expressing the earth and men the air—as well as vice versa.)


One potential integration of the 3/10 quincunx (most likely with the harmony aspects, conjunctions or “natural quincunxes” such as planet/house or planet/sign or sign/house blends) is the disciplined mind. The disciplined, hardworking, dedicated themes represented by Saturn are applied to further one’s studies, learning, communicating and seeking of information. People may put a lot of effort into the mental arena. They may take a great deal of responsibility for being logical, rational, and objective. One possible end result is a career which strongly involves the mind: the professional communicator—whether teaching, writing, media, speaking, etc.

If the Saturnian motifs are overused, the individual may be too self-critical or self-blocking in their use of the mind and tongue. They could experience learning disabilities, communication phobias, knowledge blocks, etc. They might be too hard on themselves, demanding that their learning be “just so” and critical when they do not meet harsh, internal standards.

The best of this combination knows when to “lighten up” and when to get “down to business.” Such people find their vocational sense of competence and expertise through their thinking, communicating or objective eye.


One likely skill for people who integrate 3 and 10 is the capacity to easily grasp and comprehend the basic laws of life and society. Such people use their eyes, senses and logic to perceive clearly the rules, roles and restrictions of the world. They can be sensible about what is possible (and what is not). They can be objective about social roles, stereotypes and pigeonholes. They can also be a bit lighthearted, and not take the hierarchy TOO seriously. They know when to be flippant about the powers that be. They clearly perceive and understand the necessities of life. They can also communicate this knowledge to others. They make good arbiters or disseminators of cultural/legal demands because they can convey the rules without being emotionally caught up in either compliance or rebellion. Such people may have skills at objective analysis, probability assessments and logical extrapolations. This contributes often to talent for problem-solving.


Astrology constantly sends us the message that life means wholeness—finding the best of both when we are dealing with conflicting drives and needs. With the 3/10 quincunx, we can combine lightness and commitment, flippancy and seriousness, theories and follow-through. We know how and when to take turns between socializing and working; scattering and being focused; taking charge and being an equal; saying and doing; or observing and accomplishing. We have room for parents and siblings; for speech and silence; for curiosity and career; for information and applications.

The more fully we can take turns, or moderate between our choices, the richer our lives will be!

Copyright © 1989 Los Angeles Community Church of Religious Science, Inc.

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