Synastry Studies: Conjunctions–Sacred Marriage or Train Wreck?

I think, of all the aspects in synastry, the most misinterpreted is the conjunction. It’s easy to understand why. There’s something romantic about a conjunction, something seductive. Two (or more, sometimes) become one. How lovely. There is a basic archetype at work here, the reconciliation of differing energies, the merging of two separate forces. On the surface, it’s rather Neptunian, the melding, the union. It’s also rather Neptunian in that this melding is often an illusion–elusive, and temporary.

A lot of us began studying astrology because we wanted to find out how someone else ticked–usually someone we were eying up as a potential mate. And as we studied the charts, we got a particular frisson on discovering–oh my god, yes–a conjunction, or many conjunctions, as many as we could hope for. Now, in the hindsight of years and experience with synastry, the folly of this is laughable to me, but I was as guilty as any. No, probably more so. Conjunctions, I thought, I dreamed–merging, passion, intensity, oneness, unspoken communication and instant, intuitive understanding! Sure. I longed to see lots of conjunctions, and if I couldn’t get them I would settle for trines, and sextiles–all the books told me that this is what you need to make a go of it. Throw a bit of Saturn in there and you’re riding off into the sunset together.

Well, no. Relationships need a purpose, and the soft aspects don’t provide that, but that’s an article for another day. First of all, (and a lot of astrology newbies miss this) the conjunction is not considered a soft aspect. It’s a hard one, right alongside squares, oppositions, semi-squares, etc. So where does this ‘myth’ about the conjunction come from?

The truth is that there are two conjunctions, the conjunction of the hieros gamos (the sacred marriage) and the conjunction that occurs when the irresistible force meets the immovable object. And alas, astrologically speaking, they can both occur within the same conjunction. And a lot of people don’t know this–or prepare for it.

Conjunctions carry the promise of bliss. At some level, we all long for bliss, and the sacred marriage is a powerful archetype which represents bliss in all its forms–the joining of the material with the divine. Whether it’s the false bliss of drugs, alcohol or sexual addiction, or it’s the numinous bliss of sacred experience, we are still dealing with the archetype of the conjunctio. The Sacred Marriage, most often represented by a conjunction of the Sun and the Moon (see the article on The Sacred Marriage), is one of the major steps in the alchemical process. It represents not the process that results in union, but union itself. The promise of a non-dual world, where we are at one with everything.

And this is what we’re hoping for when we see conjunctions between our charts and the charts of those we love (or will love, fingers crossed). We assume that this is the place in the chart where we won’t have to be apart, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. We will join forces. We will be together, forever–happily ever after. My Sun and your Moon, my Venus and your Mars–ah, it takes the breath away.

Alas, the fundamental numerical archetype behind the conjunction is the ‘one.’ The circle divided by one. And the ‘one’ is a very different animal. Not entirely Neptunian. In fact, not Neptunian at all. More like Mars. More like Aries. Willful. Headstrong. A bit unpredictable. A bit wild. Like Aries, the actions of the conjunction are not always well thought out, because it’s impulsive. It’s actions come entirely from within. It doesn’t bounce it’s ideas off of any other planet before it makes a move. Ever notice, when you have a conjunction of two (or more) planets tied to another planet by aspect, that the conjunction will usually make the first move and the other planet will fall into line behind it? (Unless the other planet is very powerfully placed.) The fact of having two or more planets on or around the same degree gives it weight, a position of power. Now, if only it knew what it was doing…

It’s duality that gives us a sense of ‘other,’ of partnership–we relate to something ‘out there.’ A conjunction can behave as if it’s complete within itself. But within the conjunction itself, all is not peaceful. Each of the planets will fight for supremacy; they will tussle with one another over who has the purest expression. Take a Moon/Uranus conjunction. The Moon, by its very nature, wants to belong; it wants things comforting, comfortable, familiar. But with this conjunction, Uranus will often hijack the very things that the Moon relies on to feel secure–and it has easy access to this because, well, it’s so near. It knows the Moon, it knows what the Moon needs. And it says, “Aha, but you didn’t know you need this…as it pulls the comfy soft rug up from under the Moon’s feet and takes it on a joyride through dangerous (to the Moon) and unfamiliar territory. And because it’s a conjunction, the Moon secretly does want to be swept up and taken away to new lands, but it was afraid of saying so. It may take a lifetime for this aspect to really come into its own, for Uranus to anchor itself to the lunar needs and for the Moon to accept its need for change. What the conjunction does is allow for swift and dramatic access to experience. We have an even more pronounced dramatic shift when the two planets straddle the cusp of two signs. Adjacent signs have a hard time relating. Sometimes these aspects, like bad marriages, are irreconcilable. Take a look at the unfortunate Moon/Mars conjunction (Moon in Pisces, Mars at 0 Aries) in Tony Perkins’ chart.

Within a natal chart, some planets have an easier time reconciling their close proximity than others. The Moon will blend very willingly with Mercury, Venus and Jupiter, and struggle with Mars and Saturn. Mercury, being the changeable fellow he is, will happily take on different faces and masks to perform his duties. Venus may treat the other planet as a long lost acolyte, but she will turn on him if she doesn’t get her due. Mars and Jupiter will blow their way through and Saturn will throw his somber weight around, but that’s nothing compared to when the three bullies move in. You know them…the hooligans…Uranus, Neptune and Pluto (don’t let Neptune fool you, he’s trouble under that pretty face). The outer planets will attempt to change completely, from the ground up, the nature of any planet they conjunct, and they may do so in many intense and larger-than-life ways. It’s as though we’re meant to live out a personal drama of the outer planet’s creative force, and it’s usually very hard on us poor mortals. We can carry the archetype not only for ourselves, but for those around us.

Conjunctions with the Sun are different beings entirely. The Sun is magical that way. The Sun itself is an integrating and consolidating force, and only the Sun is stronger than anything that touches it (not including the Moon, which is the other ‘light’). The Sun is our very life force; when he is in aspect, and especially when he is conjunct another planet, the creative power of the Sun is there to integrate and absorb that planet’s true power into our conscious awareness. When the Sun and Pluto are conjunct, for example, life will automatically draw us into situations where our personal power is tested. We assume that it’s Pluto out to ‘get’ us (at the very core of our existence) but it’s actually the Sun drawing the experience of Pluto so that we can learn to grasp the truth of our own divine strength. It’s a subtle but important difference. You can see it very clearly when the Sun makes conjunctions via secondary progression–the entire chart is infused with that planet’s tone for the duration of the conjunction (two or three years). It isn’t an easy ride, but usually, with conjunctions to the Sun, we sense the purpose behind their manifestation.

So when two planets react so dramatically in a natal chart, when they are literally born to be together, what can we expect when conjunctions happen between charts? Probably the most misinterpreted conjunction in synastry is the famed Venus/Mars conjunction. Woman’s Venus, Man’s Mars, perfect sex forever and ever, because you will always desire me and I will always attract you. Well, okay, maybe on some days. On some days whatever I do, you will find it enticing, and you will react to and appreciate the way I express myself sexually. But on other days, I may want lots of sex when you just want to take a bubble bath, or you may stimulate me to express myself in ways that are not not primarily sexual, leaving me way too tired and you hot and bothered under the covers. There is, undoubtedly, a nice give and take between these two planets, but they don’t, in and of themselves, offer intimacy, openness, or emotional bonding. They are, purely and simply, about attraction, and desire, and they can grow cold very easily without the rest of the charts to buoy them up.

When there are a lot of conjunctions between charts, life is very stimulating, but it can also be exhausting. Everything about the relationship seems to be pitched at an extreme level, off again, on again; dramatic turns; exaggerated circumstances. I’ve always felt that Romeo and Juliet had a mass of conjunctions between them–nothing else could explain how everything went so very wrong for those two. The other thing that newbies don’t take into consideration, as they search for the romantic conjunctions between charts, is that the expression of that planet is going to depend a lot on what it’s doing in the natal chart. This is why a list of aspects between charts is fairly useless in interpreting whether or not a couple will get along. Say we have that longed-for Venus/Mars conjunction. But what if the Mars person has Mars square Uranus, with that on-again off-again energy, which would also make a square to your Venus? Bliss forever? I think not, especially if the Mars/Venus conjunction is in a sign that needs security. An air sign conjunction would fare better. Or what if an airy, don’t fence me in type was uncomfortable with his Mars in emotional Cancer? A woman with Venus conjunct that Mars in Cancer would only, eventually, increase the internal conflict. He would either find peace with that aspect of himself or feel the conflict wasn’t worth it and move on to other, less potent, Venus positions.

Conjunctions can make it easy for two planets to function together, but we mustn’t forget how easy it is to over-grease the wheels. If I already have trouble with my Jupiter because of placements in my natal chart, your Moon falling on my Jupiter will not be the stroll in the park the astrological cook books describe. Your Moon there may nurture and encourage my tendencies to excess and breaking boundaries. Planets in conjunction are bigger together than they are apart, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. When conjunctions occur in between charts, we have to sit up and take notice, because they are very active and will not be ignored. We will certainly feel them. We may not be able to escape. Whether we want to or not depends on many variables.

So go on, keep looking for those conjunctions. I dare you…

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