Life is a Quincunx

Maritha Pottenger

We continue our discussion of quincunxes with a look at the 3/8 quincunx.


The strongest form of the 3/8 quincunx would be a quincunx between Mercury and Pluto. To a degree, any Mercury/Pluto aspect shows the need to integrate 3/8 issues, but the actual quincunx indicates more restlessness, potential incompatibility, feelings of having to deal with a “forced choice” or possible projection. Harmony aspects imply more ease of integration. Squares show challenges and the need to make a place in life for each side of the quincunx. Oppositions represent possible pulling apart or polarization—swinging from one extreme to another until a middle ground synthesis can be achieved. A conjunction between Mercury and Pluto suggests that one does not get Letter 3 without Letter 8 (and vice versa), but the individual must still deal with the issue of integration in order to ensure constructive (rather than destructive) forms of manifestation.


Any quincunxes between the rulers of the 3rd and of the 8th houses would also highlight this 3/8 quincunx. Similarly for quincunxes between planets in the 3rd and in the 8th or in Gemini and in Scorpio. Other aspects are possible. One can have a trine (or a tri-octile) linking planets in the 3rd and 8th houses. However, the quincunx itself carries the most potential for restlessness, difficulty of integration and tendency to feel torn in two different directions.

The following possibilities point to the need to combine Letters 3 and 8. They are all variations of a “natural” 3/8 quincunx.

1) Mercury in the 8th house.

2) Pluto in the 3rd house.

3) Any ruler of the 8th aspecting Mercury.

4) Any ruler of the 3rd aspecting Pluto.

5) Any ruler of the 8th in the 3rd.

6) Any ruler of the 3rd in the 8th.

7) Pluto in Gemini.

8) Mercury in Scorpio.

9) Any aspects linking 3rd and 8th houses.

10) Any aspects linking Gemini and Scorpio.

Depending on the chart, the 3/8 theme might be totally absent, or repeated 10 or more times!


With the 3/8 quincunx, we are trying to combine curiosity, a light touch, flippancy, detachment, objectivity, superficiality, restlessness, siblings/relatives, people near at hand and the need to communicate with privacy needs, intensity, commitment, emotional depths, determination to get to the END of the matter, mates, intimacy instincts and power drives.

Here are some of the different parts of life we are trying to integrate (make room for each) in the 3/8 quincunx:









open, gregarious

private, secretive











seeks variety

commits to one


A common form of the 3/8 quincunx involves the struggle between lightheartedness and a serious, intense commitment. In some cases, an individual may simply be inappropriate: demonstrating a flippant, casual attitude in situations where a serious emotional commitment would be more appreciated and/or becoming brooding, relentless and vengeful when a more objective, detached approach would be fruitful. Some individuals may totally commit in insignificant matters, but remain detached, flippant and superficial in terms of significant emotional matters.

Another potential is the person who flips from the extremes of Letter 8 to the extremes of Letter 3. One moment the person is looking deeply into your eyes, totally absorbed in your communication, pointedly focused on you and you alone. The next moment, they are easily distracted, casual curious about a totally unrelated matter, eager to be up and about exploring other options. Someone could swing from coming across as totally committed, intimately and inextricably bound up in your life and then totally casual, playing the field, interested in variety, unwilling to be pinned down to anything.

Another potential is the individual who identifies with one side of this quincunx and unconsciously projects the other side (attracting individuals who will overdo the side being denied). The natural forum for projecting Letter 8 would be onto mates—people who share sensuality, sexuality, money and/or possessions. In such cases, the mate will be overly intense, manipulative, power-hungry, concerned with secrets, obsessive, convoluted or otherwise carrying Letter 8 to excess. The natural form for projecting Letter 3 is onto relatives and neighbors (people near at hand). In such cases, these “immediate others” would be superficial, restless, gossipy, flippant, careless, scattered and excessively casual. The denied quality is carried to an uncomfortable extreme.

However, either side of the quincunx could be projected on almost anyone, depending upon the chart as a whole. If, for example, someone has a stellium in Gemini in the 5th and a stellium in Scorpio in the 10th, they might project at either (or both) ends. A father (or father figure, or authority such as a boss) could live out the 10th house Scorpio: strong, intense, power-oriented, controlling, demanding, compulsive. A child or lover could live out the Gemini end: fun-loving, playful, not taking life very seriously, having multiple interests and easily scattering, superficial, talkative, etc.

In situations involving projection, the goal is NOT to do as the other person is doing—they are OVERdoing. The challenge is to identify the drives which they represent (in excess) and discover constructive, moderate ways to incorporate those drives into one’s own life.


Another variant of the “light versus heavy” conflict can be tension between the desire to be the butterfly, flying from flower to flower, tasting this, trying that, never settling down—versus the need to finish up, to complete whatever is undertaken, to get the to END of the matter. It is a rather obvious truism that life has opportunities for both kinds of behavior, yet people can tangle themselves up amazingly in learning to choose when one is more appropriate than the other.

Again, projection may come into play. The individual, for example, who overidentifies with the obsessive need to finish everything (of Letter 8) is likely to put in long hours on the job, always trying to clear his/her desk before going home. Such an individual can be driven “crazy” by the (Letter 3) coworker who seems to chat with everyone in the office, do a bit of this and a bit of that and never finishes one project before leaping into the next. (It is important to remember that projection is always a two-way street. The person overdoing compulsive completion is learning to sometimes taste and try and drop. The butterfly who flits from one thing to another is learning to sometimes remain and finish up.)

People with strong water in their charts often need to cultivate some of the lightness and detachment of Letter 3. The heavy water types so often take everything to heart and need to practice “thumbing the nose” in some cases. People with strong fire/air may have “rolling stone” or “runaway” tendencies and can benefit from the capacity for commitment that Letter 8 symbolizes.


The 3/8 quincunx also symbolizes two important ways of gaining information: through logic, the rational mind, the verbal component of a communication (Letter 3) and through emotional nuances, nonverbal cues, feelings, impressions and—at times—subtle manipulations and cues (Letter 8). People who rely excessively on Letter 3 will be ultra rational and verbally oriented. They will miss important meanings because they are paying attention only to the words, and not to the implications and suggestions of emotional context. Their understanding will be dry and limited. People who rely excessively on Letter 8 will be overly emotional, will see wheels within wheels, will constantly seek hidden meanings (even when they do not exist) and may obsess over unimportant nuances. Both sides, of course, are necessary for a full life, for a complete understanding and good communication.



Another form of the quincunx is constant back-and-forth between the two life areas involved. An individual may feel that s/he has to make a “forced choice” between a mate and relatives. There may appear to be no potential agreement between one’s sexual partner and one’s siblings or other relatives. Time and energy demands may seem to demand a choice (yet astrology says keep room for both). Compromise remains important.


Another variation involves conflicts with mates (and business partners—anyone who shares the financial or physical world with us) over issues of thinking, communication, information, knowledge, or relatives. Letter 8 weapons (intimidation, emotional blackmail, threats, power plays, manipulation) may be used to control the dissemination of information. Withdrawal and sulking may affect the lines of communication. Ideas or knowledge may be turned into tools for power. Information may be used for coercion and control.

Also possible is conflicts with relatives (or people near at hand) over issues of inheritance, shared resources, sexuality or pleasures. The Letter 8 challenge of learning to give, receive and share money and possessions equally and easily may not be met at all. There could be power struggles with relatives over money, sex, or possessions.

The challenge in such situations is to keep our manifestations “clean” and as positive as possible. We need to own our own power—neither using others, nor allowing them to abuse us. We need to be open and clear about what we communicate, neither distracting and changing the subject nor withdrawing into silence. The more balanced we can be in our reactions and attitudes, the more positive the outcome.


The 3/8 quincunx can also highlight communication issues revolving around secrecy (or lack thereof). People need a constructive balance between total openness, verbosity, constant chatter versus total secrecy, silence and withdrawal. Letter 3 can go to the extreme of the former, while Letter 8 can indicate the extreme of the latter. Individuals may talk too much when it is inappropriate or clam up when it is not helpful. Some may swing between verbal diarrhea and playing the strong, silent type. If an individual is too identified with one side, someone else will play out the opposite extreme. The individual who finishes all his mate’s sentences soon finds that mate withdrawing more and more, sulking and silent. The individual who sees discussions as useless chatter soon finds a friend, relative or partner is inclined to burble on about the least little thing.

In order to integrate, we need to express both sides of the quincunx, to incorporate both (at appropriate times and places) into our lives.


One potential integration of the 3/8 quincunx (most likely with the “natural” forms or when harmony aspects are involved) is the individual who channels intensity and concentrated focus into the realm of the mind and communications. This can include the natural detective—always asking questions, seeking to understand hidden meanings, searching for subterranean motives, attempting to peel back the layers of knowledge and get to the root causes of things.

Such behavior can be an asset in doing research, investigating a crime, or probing one’s own psyche. It can be a pain in the neck to friends, casual acquaintances, relatives or anyone who would rather not be put under a demanding microscopic examination.

If the Letter 8 side of the quincunx is projected, the most likely candidate for exhibiting obsessive, compulsive, probing, intense, demanding, suspicious behavior is a relative (brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin) or neighbor. What we disown in ourselves, that other person is apt to overdo, to carry to an extreme. (If another person near at hand is overdoing Letter 8, we are probably overdoing Letter 3—too casual, lighthearted, gossipy, superficial, curious, scattered, etc. If we become more balanced, incorporating both sides, the other person has the same opportunity for integration.)

Sometimes the Letter 8 themes are faced through relatives in terms of death (or ending chapters), withdrawal, manipulation, power plays, intimidation or other negative Letter 8 manifestations. If the negative forms are present, the challenge is to find a way to express the positive forms: concentration, thoroughness, intense commitment to something/someone that matters, etc.


Another integration of the 3/8 quincunx is the individual whose intellectual curiosity and desire to learn and collect information (Letter 3) is channeled into Letter 8 areas: the occult, psychotherapy, sexuality, shared resources, pollution, poisons, unconscious desires, power, hidden or taboo areas, or anything complex and many-layered. The individual is fascinated by power, or secrets, or intensity. They are eager to gain knowledge about these fields and enjoy discussing them. They may be a student (and/or a teacher) in any of these realms. There may be a compulsion to reveal or uncover and make public secret information.


Astrology consistently sends us the message that dealing with conflict aspects is a way to grow, to expand, and to become more whole. Those who integrate the 3/8 quincunx can blend the mind and the emotions; can know when to be silent and when to speak; can understand words as well as subtle cues of context and nuance; can be appropriately public and private; appreciate relatives and mates and give time to each; know when to bend, adapt, be flexible and when to be strong, stand firm and use their power of will; have some wide interests they taste and try and some firm commitment they complete and care deeply about; can appreciate depths and also enjoy surface appearances and know when to be serious and when to laugh. They can be objective and logical about intensely emotional issues (money, sexuality, possessions, inheritance) and can devote much intense energy and concentration into learning and communicating.

Their lives remain all the fuller and more fulfilling for it!

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

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