The Tale of the Inconjuncts: Part Three, the semi-sextile

Please read Part Two of The Tale of the Inconjuncts before reading this piece. You can find it here.

It’s a strange thing, the semi-sextile. It doesn’t get any respect. The sad step-child of the aspect family, ignored by his mightier siblings, the semi-sextile cries out for attention, but no one sees him. Those who dabble in astrology are mostly blind to him, and even professional astrologers give him short shrift, if they notice him at all. If he is noticed, he’s often dismissed with a puzzled look and a shrug of the shoulders. “It’s only a semi-sextile,” we tell ourselves. “What harm can it do?” And we set our attentions on more important things. Big mistake.

The semi-sextile is the nice, polite kid no one notices, until one day we start wondering who has been putting soap in the cat food and dropping Aunt Bessie’s jewelry down the toilet. Even then, his bigger, stroppier brothers, the quincunx and the square, get the blame, and all the while, while everyone’s back is turned, the semi-sextile grows up in the shadows and thinks up more clever and nefarious means to disrupt the flow. And he gets away with it. This is how Bond villains are created. The next thing you know, he’s threatening to take over the world (or at least, two planets in your chart).

But if we go back to numbers theory, we see that the semi-sextile carries a great power. It’s represented by a sacred number, 12, the very basis of our zodiac. The limitless circle divided by 12 gives us our zodiacal frame, representing a completion of manifest experience–the journey out from 0 Aries and back again. And if you think of the zodiac in conceptual terms, each 30 degree mark is one small, very different step forward on the journey. And this is much the way the semi-sextile operates. It knows where it’s going, but it doesn’t tell you until you’re there. You’re just along for the, usually surprising, experience. Underneath, the semi-sextile carries the transcendence of the three (12 = 1 + 2). But we can transcend the conflict inherent in the two planets only if we recognize the semi-sextile in the first place.

Unlike the trine, which is the true representative of the three (circle divided 3 times, 120 degrees each), and which is about effortlessly transcending the conflict between spirit and matter, (between the 1 and the 2) to allow energy to flow, the 12 represents the end of the material journey and is ultimately concerned with the higher pattern of intent that is beyond matter. It represents the Watcher in all of us, the one that knows the plan, the one that has a good idea of the way things turn out. The semi-sextile is preparing us to leave material reality, and our purposeful intentions, behind, and urges us to “Let go and let god.” Planets in semi-sextile are working together, but only when we sleep, only when we’re looking in the other direction, only when things don’t work out according to our small, matter-bound plans. (This includes our charts themselves, which are defined by matter.) I once heard someone say that the shortest prayer in the world is “F*** it.” That’s the prayer of the semi-sextile. The semi-sextile is where we are when we are forced to let go. That’s the sacrificial element of it, the Neptune/Pisces of it.

This is all related to the separating side of the semi-sextile, which is Piscean in nature. But what of the applying, Taurus side? Because we don’t know where they’re coming from, semi-sextiles can take us to some unexpected places. This is the tension between the impulse of Aries and the acquisitive Taurus, which very much wants to know what it has and where it’s headed. The Taurus semi-sextile is the struggle to hold on in conflict with the need to move on; it also represents the struggle to make manifest what is heretofore only promise and intuition. This is the manifesting ability of the inconjuncts, the ability to create out of conscious and unconscious intention. The difference between the two is that with the quincunxes, we may acknowledge the tensions between the two planets, and with the semi-sextiles, we often do not. Semi-sextiles can sometimes run roughshod over us, and we may hardly know what is happening.

I’ve mentioned the way the inconjuncts create magic in secondary progressions. They are just as potent a guide in the natal chart, if we know what to look for. A planet inconjunct both ends of the Nodes, in particular, represents a potent energy which must be acknowledged, refined and used to expand the life and the conscious awareness–the planet is on a soul-mission, and cannot and will not be ignored. Because the aspect is an inconjunct, there is no guarantee of success. We need to become our own Watchers, to be aware that there is a greater plan for us that is somewhat out of our control, in order to use the energy properly.

When the semi-sextile is to the South Node, it can represent gifts which must be used in this life. Albert Einstein had Uranus in the third semi-sextile the second house South Node; Queen Elizabeth has a first house Mars aspecting her Capricorn South Node; David Frost, the British broadcaster, has a 10th house Mercury semi-sextile the South Node. It can also indicate problems that will eventually be made manifest in order to alter conscious awareness. Both Michael Hutchence, lead singer of INXS, and Montgomery Clift had Chiron semi-sextile the South Node. Both committed suicide, Hutchence quickly, just past his nodal return, and Clift slowly, through drink and drugs. (Hutchence had a second house Chiron to a third house Pisces South Node, Clift had an eighth house Chiron to a ninth house Taurus South Node.) The semi-sextile seems particularly potent when either end is involved with Taurus or Pisces, as they are here. It’s as though the issues are exaggerated and seem less resolvable. (Much the same happens when Virgo or Scorpio is involved with a quincunx.) Chiron is particularly strong when involved in an inconjunct–it’s as though the irresolvable pains of Chiron are magnified ten-fold. But it isn’t always gloom and doom. Some of us can’t come to terms with the pain of our thwarted intentions, but many more of us do. Woody Allen has Chiron in the 10th inconjunct his 11th house South Node in Cancer. Although his public reputation has been tarnished (Chiron/10th) via his behaviour in family life (Cancer SN), he still maintains a successful creative output (NN in 5th) and has one of the longest running and productive careers in film. Often, with planets inconjunct the Nodes, the quincunx end represents the conscious struggle and the semi-sextile end is the thing that pops out and surprises us. When Oprah Winfrey (like Woody Allen, with Cancer SN in 11 and Cap NN in 5) started making a career for herself, I doubt that she realized her career would take off if she shared her personal pain with others (Pluto in 12 semi-sextile the 11th SN). Oprah also has Chiron conjunct the North Node, emphasizing the healing element of her personal expression.

The theme of both inconjuncts is patience. We must have the patience to know that a path will reveal itself, and the strength to face the destruction of the ego’s intentions. We must sit still and wait for the patterns of the universe to reveal our next step, and trust that the fog of our own internal clutter will lift, and we will be guided forward, little by little.

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