This is the first in an occasional series on the way aspects operate in synastry.
I don’t think there is any more distrusted aspect than the opposition. New students often look at oppositions in charts and shudder, or just sigh and give up. They assume those planets can’t possibly be compatible, they have nothing in common. It’s assumed that the two planets are completely at war with one another, and will never connect. Synastry brings out the worst of assumptions about oppositions, that an opposition formed between two charts dooms those planets in some way, forcing the couple into a lifetime of power struggles, arguments, and misunderstandings.
Part of the problem is the way oppositions have been portrayed in many ‘cookbook’ astrology texts. I’ve seen even the most innocent of oppositions, Venus/Venus or Moon/Venus, given a text that would put off a goth. It’s time to reclaim the opposition.
In mathematical terms, the opposition is the second most powerful aspect, after the conjunction (Surprised you, didn’t I? Bet you thought it was the square.). The ‘two’ comes after the ‘one.’ Dividing the circle by two gives us 180 degrees. The opposition relates to whatever alien ‘out there’ must be integrated. The energies of the two planets involved must be acknowledged, processed, and learn to act as one. No matter how strange the interaction must seem, it has to happen. There has to be some give and take.
Within a chart, there will be a natural give and take between the planets. The trick to understanding these planets is in knowing that they are ‘natural’ partners. Usually, they are in complimentary signs and the one facilitates the understanding of the other via their function in the signs, even though the road may be rocky. They are often like characters in a bad romantic comedy; though they ‘fight’ with one another, you know will get together in the end, given enough time and circumstance. They may never totally agree, though they will have fun (and aggravation) trying. With out of sign oppositions, the plot gets thicker, and the road to one-ness is rougher, but happen it must.
Oppositions work via a see-sawing effect. If it’s not weighted towards one end, the opposition can vacillate, one day embracing one end, the next, the other. This give and take can happen when oppositions are formed between charts, and they can often drive us crazy. If we have a Mars/Pluto opposition between us, one day my Mars might be the victor, the next, your Pluto will win control. Planets in opposition arm wrestle in a pronounced way. Power is turned over quickly, without warning, leaving the participants confused.
Troubles occur when one planet has the upper hand over another, whether this happens natally or in synastry. If it’s my Sun, Moon, Ascendant ruler, or dispositor of the Sun, a ruler of an angle, or if the opposition is weighted by an outer planet, the conflict may seem more intense, because the ‘weightier’ planet will win out. That planet will have its own way, the house involved will have a stronger imprint, and the lesser planet will either have to fight for recognition or come to some compromise. This is difficult when it’s a planet like Venus, which has much to do with our sense of self-worth. When Venus is involved in an opposition, it’s values are challenged. If there is a Venus opposition, we find ourselves being tested regarding our sense of what we own, internally or externally. Venus/Pluto will do this by engaging us in power struggles; Venus/Uranus, by tearing away what we possess, Venus/Neptune, by idealizing what we (may or may not) have and then having it disappear, without explanation or recompense. No matter what opposes it, Venus has to both hold on to its values and allow growth according to the outer planet. Squares to any opposition will aggravate the tension. If a planet is trine/sexile an opposition, it will act as a diplomat, syphoning off the see-sawing energy and allowing both planets easier expression through its position.
The key to the opposition lies in the fact that each planet is on the other planet’s polarity point. The polarity point of a planet is a vulnerable place which indicates what most needs developing in that planet. Oppositions, in fact, are a blessing, because they tell us exactly what those planets need in order to be stronger, to be whole. If Venus is opposite my Pluto, both Venus and Pluto need adjustment. Venus’s values, tastes, and preferences will be challenged by Pluto’s compulsion towards the ultimate truth. Pluto’s obsessive search for the ultimate will be guided by Venus’s love, its values and its aesthetic urges. If successful, both ends of the opposition will alter. Polarity points show us what is missing in the planet’s expression. If my Cancer Venus is opposite a Capricorn Mars, the self-sufficiency that Cancer Venus needs to learn (via the opposite sign) will be helped by practical Mars in Capricorn actions. Venus will be able to ‘learn’ its Capricorn lessons via Mars activity. If Jupiter is there, rather than Mars, the Cancer Venus will need to experience an opening towards achievement, and to getting itself ‘out there.’ It will need to learn how to go about life in a practical and yet adventurous way.
The opposition is striving for wholeness, much more so than any other hard aspect, and is much more capable of success in this area. In a natal chart, with a little work, these two fighting elements will add up to greater than the sum of its parts. If the opposition occurs between charts, these who energies may collide in some way, but with luck, each will help the other to achieve what could not be achieved before the interaction. For example, sticking with Venus, if my natal Venus in Cancer is made vague somewhat by a contact with Neptune, someone who comes along with Venus in Capricorn opposite my Venus may set me straight about the practical goals I need to achieve in order to feel self-sufficient and grounded in my own tastes and desires.
Sometimes, oppositions created between charts are involved in what I call, “hungry planet syndrome.” This occurs when a planet in a natal chart is primed for growth–due to transits and progressions; it knows it has somewhere to go, but it doesn’t know quite where yet. If someone comes along with something to oppose that planet, that planet may think that the new person is the be all and end all of existence. It can result in intense obsessions, fascinations and compulsive relationships. It can also be related thematically. For example, if my progressed Ascendant is conjunct Neptune, and I’m primed to experience all things Neptunian in my life in order to elevate that planet’s expression in my chart, I may fall into an obsessive relationship with someone whose Sun is opposite my natal Neptune, or whose Neptune is opposite my Sun. My interaction with that person will be highly Neptunian (fascination, illusion of perfection, surrender), and the Neptune lessons will influence the entire chart, as indicated by the progressed Ascendant.
The most challenging and strongest, but most rewarding oppositions, are between the higher and the lower octaves of planets: Mars opposite Pluto, Venus opposite Neptune, Mercury opposite Uranus. These oppositions are the fast track to spiritual development, and while they are difficult, either natally or between charts, they can hold unimaginable rewards. (Chiron is involved in the process, whether it’s in aspect or not, but we will get to this another day.)
I’m very pro-opposition, whether I see it within or between charts, because I know that there is a direct path to integrating two potentially opposing elements. Natally, the two planets in an opposition have a dialogue, they are talking to one another. The opposition shouldn’t be confused with the quincunx (150 degrees) which argues with itself to no good use and is often a real challenge, spiritually, mentally and metaphorically. In synastry, the opposition creates a unique circumstance for positive development, no matter how painful the initial encounter.
The next time you see an opposition in a chart or between charts, be brave. The debates are open and the translators are at the ready.