A T-square is formed when (at least) two planets in opposition (180°) both aspect a third planet by right angle/square (90°). This third planet, known as the apex, is situated around the midpoint of the opposition. All three 'legs' should be within an acceptable orb of each other (8°).
A T-square reveals certain life stories ('scripts') - the major events, challenges and themes - encountered in our lives. Planets in aspect to each other reveal a dialogue between planetary principles/energies, but the T-square configuration is a dynamic pattern that links and interlocks these energies. Its importance is due, in part, to the fact that it involves at least three planets and ties up numerous houses by rulership, so its influence will be felt in many corners of a horoscope.
In The Contemporary Astrologer's Handbook (Flare, 2007), Sue Tompkins writes:
This energizing configuration can dominate the life and the chart. A T-square usually describes the most pressing problems in the life; by dealing with them, an individual stretches themselves and often makes noteworthy contributions to the world. So while indicative of obstacles and lessons to be learned, a T-square offers huge potential for personal growth.
When interpreting any configuration, it's important to consider the particular aspects involved in that pattern (in this case, it's an opposition and two squares). These shed light on the kind of dialogue between the planets.
In particular, the most dynamic, compelling part of the T-square is the apex. Understanding the apex (focal point) of a T-square - the planet involved, its sign and house position and other aspects - is the key. In fact, it is the solution to what drives the struggle inherent in the opposition.
- The opposition:
- The confrontational or divisive nature of the opposition demands an awareness and balance of the planets involved. Ideally, there can be an integration of these conflicting parts, or at least a truce. An opposition reveals major relationship patterns and themes, and it's certainly the case that we tend to stick with the 'nicer' of the two planets and project the more 'difficult' one onto other people. Unless dissociate (out of sign),1 an opposition involves a polarity (e.g. Leo-Aquarius), and it's important to understand the interplay between these signs.
- The squares:
- Both ends of the opposition are in square to the apex. Squares appear as dynamic, recurring obstacles across our path - ones that require effort in order to create something of value. Research suggests that our greatest life accomplishments can be described by the nature of the planets in square to each other. At worst, they can seem like the hardest tests we face; we feel paralysed until we master them. With squares, there's no pain without gain and 'no guts, no glory'.
In some examples, there are two apex planets receiving squares from the opposition. These are not always conjoined, but the midpoint degree of these two planets at the apex is significant in terms of synastry with other charts. And it is very sensitive to transits, directions and progressions (see Margaret Thatcher's chart below).
Some astrologers pay attention to the missing fourth leg - the empty space opposite the apex - but I focus on the areas of the chart directly involved in the configuration. But saying that, I'd always consider the meaning of an apex's polarity, which would naturally include the sign at the missing fourth leg.
Pulling apart the various legs of a T-square or other configuration is the easiest way of grasping what it means as a whole, so I'd recommend starting with each individual planet. There are also a few useful points to remember when delineating this (or any) aspect pattern:
- Look for common links between the planets, signs, elements, modes or houses involved. For instance, it might be a T-square in fixed signs - the issues around the configuration will be more rigid, wilful, determined, stuck. Or it might be a mutable T-square, which concerns itself more with the distribution and processing of information and a flexible, (over)adaptable approach to situations or issues. Or one planet might rule the signs in two of the three legs, creating a dominant theme to the configuration, e.g., Mercury opposite Jupiter in Gemini, both square Mars in Virgo - creating a Mercury signature in the T-square. These 'double whammies' (repetitive statements) are often the basis of an overtone in the chart.
- The next stage is to pull apart the various planetary pairs/combinations. Start with planets in opposition and then in square (and any conjunctions). In the first example below, we have Mars-Uranus, Moon-Mars, Moon-Uranus, Mars-Pluto, Uranus-Pluto, Moon-Pluto (and, if you wish, each planet with the MC). Tackle these individually, considering their meanings and core principles. How do they act, react and interact in combination?
- Look for a 'release' aspect - one that's foreign to the configuration (e.g, a trine from the apex of a T-square). This will show a constructive 'way out' - room to breathe - that can help to motivate us to explore the positive sides to the configuration without getting too tunnel-visioned or immersed in the 'set' configuration itself.
Example One: Plunging Emotional Depths
The first example belongs to director Roman Polanksi. Polanski's T-square suggests dynamic achievement through crisis, conflict and challenge (cardinal signs). Mars in Libra in the 1st opposite Uranus in Aries in the 7th speaks of wilful independence, disagreement and a need for space vs. fighting for freedom, rights and justice. A sudden act of violence and controversial (Uranus) sex (Mars) are two further manifestations.
The opposition is square to the Moon conjunct Pluto in Cancer on the Midheaven. This apex/focal point demands resolution by achieving recognition (MC) and creating a powerful, intense emotional impact or response (Moon-Pluto in Cancer) by exploring buried feelings, trauma or obsession (Moon-Pluto in Cancer) in the outside world (MC). It also suggests some powerful, seemingly non-negotiable (Pluto) experiences around his mother or wife. In Aspects in Astrology, Sue Tompkins suggests the aspect has much to do with "primal feelings" and "plunging and diving deeply into … feelings and relationships".
There has been a bizarre interplay between the plots of Polanski's films and events in his own life, and as astrologers we can see this most vividly in his T-square. His films have often contained dark, violent, sexual conflicts, and his life has had its share of horror, murder and sex scandal. Obsessed with horror movies and sharp edges and razors (Mars), his first few films had claustrophobic settings (Moon-Pluto square Uranus) and were known as the 'apartment trilogy'. Knife in the Water is about a love triangle, Repulsion centres around a woman driven to murder and insanity, and in Rosemary's Baby a woman is betrayed and manipulated into carrying and birthing the spawn of the Devil (Moon-Pluto in Cancer). Polanski went on to repeat the Moon-Pluto theme in Macbeth (Lady Macbeth must truly be one of the oldest literary embodiments of Moon-Pluto) and in Chinatown, in which a private eye plunges into a complex web of deceit and murder, incest and corruption all related to the city's water supply.
Together, Moon-Pluto in Cancer and Mars opposite Uranus are themes that have appeared most dramatically in his private life. His mother perished in Auschwitz and young Roman fled to Poland to start a new life. Many years later, his wife Sharon Tate was eight months into carrying their child when she was murdered savagely by the Manson followers - one member plunged a knife into her body (including her womb - Moon-Pluto in Cancer) sixteen times. (Tate's Ascendant is at 21° Cancer and Jupiter nearby at 18°, tying in with the apex of Polanski's T-square.) And on 10 March 1977 (with TR Pluto near his Ascendant), a sexual incident with a thirteen-year-old girl (Samantha Geimer, born 31 March 1963) led to six counts of drugging and raping a minor. Pleading guilty, Polanski fled to Europe on 1 February 1978, one day before sentencing. (Being unable to return home feels like yet another embodiment of Uranus square the Moon-Pluto in Cancer.) He remained a fugitive (Mars-Uranus?) until he was arrested at the request of the US authorities on 26 September 2009 in Switzerland. He was later released and declared a 'free man' on 12 July 2010 by the Swiss, one day after a Solar Eclipse at 19° Cancer, exactly conjunct his MC, which unlocked the pattern and began a new cycle.
The True Essence of Libra
As a mediator to warring sides, Libra understand the art of diplomatic negotiation and arbitration. But Libra knows that the concept of compromise is overrated: no one gets what they really want. (Jimmy Carter - Sun in Libra and Libra Rising - once said, "Unless both sides win, no agreement can be permanent".) Upon closer inspection, cardinal Libra has an agenda. It seeks agreement through the full acceptance of its needs by the other. At first, it attempts to have those needs met through the line of least resistance - gentle, logical persuasion and charm (Libra sends you to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip). But when faced with stubborn obstruction or an impasse, Libra reveals itself to be an iron fist in a velvet glove by sending in the troops.
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was born with a Sun-Mercury conjunction in Libra and Mars in that sign as well. Although her remark that "the lady's not for turning" speaks of the firmness and inflexibility of Saturn rising in Scorpio, many of her remarks convey the very essence of Libra: "I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end" and "I don't mind how much my ministers talk, so long as they do what I say". Politician Roy Jenkins said, "She does have the advantage of being almost totally impervious to how much she offends other people".
Upon her arrival at Downing Street as Prime Minister on 4 May 1979 (chart below is set for the time of the following words), this Libran paraphrased another Libran, St Francis of Assisi:
Where there is discord, may we bring harmony.
Where there is error, may we bring truth.
Where there is doubt, may we bring faith.
And where there is despair, may we bring hope.
It was not to be. In the sky that day, Mercury was conjunct Mars in Aries and both were opposed by Pluto in Libra. Over the next eleven years, Thatcher would go to war against Argentina and do battle with the miners, the labour unions, the IRA and countless members of her own cabinet. Libra attempts resolution and reconciliation and aims for a course of action that's free from strife, but this sign is usually found at the heart of ongoing conflict - where Libra is needed and where it is most effective.
These words of prayer were spoken as 29° Virgo was rising - Thatcher would put an end to the Labour Party years of government: the strife and strikes, the 'Winter of Discontent', and the stranglehold of the trade unions that were able to bring the country to a halt. When she'd finished her prayer and entered Number 10, Libra (her Sun sign) was rising. Thatcher felt the country was divided. What she envisioned was a new era of working together to restore balance, fairness and pride in the country (Jupiter was in Leo and had returned to its position in the 1 January 1801 Union Chart). Ironically, it would be the perceived unfairness of the Poll Tax that would eventually 'do her in'.
Another facet of Libra, of course, is its reputation for indecision. It's interesting to read that, with major political decisions, Thatcher agonized over 'doing the right thing' and would encourage her advisors to argue all sides until she was of firm conviction. After that, she rarely showed doubt or hesitancy. Astrologer Richard Swatton, in From Symbol to Substance: Training the Astrological Intuition (Flare, 2012), reveals a deeper motivation behind Libra's decision-making anxiety:
Libra's worries are not just about an exaggerated need to always be fair, but, according to the myth of Maat, they hook into matters of divine judgement, guilt, truth, life and death. In the hall of death, Maat weighs the heart of the dead on her scales of truth in order to judge the value of the life lived. On a deeper level, therefore, the root of Libra's famous indecisiveness is the fear of punishment following some kind of cosmic judgement - a clue perhaps to why Saturn is exalted in this sign.
Example Two: The Conviction Politician
This leads us neatly to the T-square in Thatcher's horoscope. Much has been written of Margaret Thatcher's Saturn rising in Scorpio (the Iron Lady who was '"not for turning") and the elevated Moon in Leo within a degree of Churchill's Moon and conjunct her Neptune (the domineering Attila the Hen who handbagged ministers into submission and had a vision to restore Britain to its Victorian 'greatness'). And there have even been some comments as to the personal allure of her Venus in the 1st House ("femininity is what she wears, masculinity is what she admires"). A summation of the latter placement - along with Scorpio Rising - is perhaps best left to François Mitterand, who said she had "the mouth of Marilyn Monroe and the eyes of Caligula".
But in Margaret Thatcher's chart, there is a powerful T-square: an exact Jupiter-Pluto opposition that squares both Mars and the Sun in Libra. The apex's exact mid(dle)point is 14° Aries and Libra, which itself is the midpoint of Thatcher's Sun and Mars. I wouldn't consider the Sun and Mars to be conjunct (the orb is 10°), but both planets in their own way had a pivotal part to play in expressing the potent Jupiter-Pluto contact throughout her professional life, particularly when transits hit Mars (9°), the apex and Sun-Mars midpoint (14°) or the Sun (19°) in Libra.
I've found that the mid-cardinal degrees (say, 14° to 16°) of the zodiac are those most associated with getting things done, of meeting and dealing with conflict, challenge and obstruction. All four points on this cardinal compass are combative, confrontational areas of the horoscope. With this T-square, Thatcher has been elevated and praised for greatness (Sun, Jupiter) and vilified and hated with a venom usually reserved for tyrants (Mars, Pluto). It reveals a woman of enormous energy, stamina, indefatigable spirit and seeming invincibility (with an intense, some have said arrogant, certainty that she was right). Not a revolutionary chart (the fixed signs do not relish change and Libra is traditional), Thatcher's is a powerfully transformative and crusading one.
Jupiter opposition Pluto can be seen in a number of her resolute opinions and hardline policies. From free market globalization, privatisation and the creation of a Yuppie consumer society, to her alliance with Reagan against the 'evil empire' of the Soviet Union and her determination to liberate enterprising individuals from a controlling state, she was seen by many as an inflexible 'conviction politician' on a mission.
In the charts of political leaders, Jupiter speaks of where there can be expansion (and overexpansion) during their tenure. In Capricorn in the 2nd opposite Pluto, there was a focus on revitalizing the economy, encouraging entrepreneurs by owning shares and buying their council houses (stone-cladding - Capricorn - was one popular method at the time!), a credit and (over-)borrowing boom, the demolition of the welfare state (originally based on the Libran principles of equal opportunity and the equitable distribution of wealth), and the 'denationalization' of British industries.
This opposition speaks of the trials she faced from the miners (Jupiter-Pluto has links to mining and deep exploration), the trade unions, the Falklands War and the IRA plots and assassination attempt (Jupiter opposite Pluto in Cancer suggests religious, patriotic extremism). Her shadow government jobs were also apt: pensions and National Insurance, the Treasury, fuel and power, transport, and education. Her white paper, Education: A Framework for Expansion, was published on 6 December 1972, two weeks before her Jupiter Return in Capricorn. One exact Jupiter cycle later her government privatized British Telecom, the first major act of selling off the nation's companies.
Transits to these important degrees of Libra (9°, 14° and 19°) would prove to be instrumental in the key times of Thatcher's political life:
9° - Saturn conjunct natal Mars after her second consecutive election defeat (25 October 1951) at Dartford.
14° - Saturn stationed at 14° Libra when she resigned as a candidate for Dartford in early 1952. One Saturn cycle later, it was the Argentines who surrendered, ending the Falklands War.
9° - Uranus reached 9° Libra in mid June 1971 when her plans to end free milk for schools received much public opposition (she was dubbed 'Thatcher milk-snatcher').
14° - When Uranus reached 14° Libra and headed towards her Sun, several events occurred that would later hold significance politically for Thatcher: in October 1971, Parliament voted in favour of entry into the EEC. Soon after, there was a miners' strike, Bloody Sunday - which escalated antagonism towards the IRA - and unemployment figures surpassed one million (they would later surpass three million - for the first time since the 1930s).
9° - When Pluto hit 9° Libra, Thatcher battled Edward Heath (born with Venus at 7°, the Sun at 17° and Saturn at 19° Cancer) for the Tory leadership and won. The election of Reagan (his rectified MC is 12° Libra) as US President and the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction of Dec 1980 at 9° Libra heralded a decade of power, expansion for the rich, and 'Thatcherism'.
14° - When Neptune reached 14° Capricorn in 1990, Thatcher faced various challenges to her leadership, including much criticism over her stance on the Euro and the Tory 'poll tax'. These weakened and undermined her position (Neptune) and led to her resignation in November 1991. Nigel Lawson's resignation at 6pm2 on 26 October 1989 in Westminster (when Neptune was 9° Capricorn opposite Jupiter at 10° Cancer) began the events that would trigger her downfall. At the time of Lawson's resignation, Pluto at 14° Scorpio was setting and conjunct her Saturn-Ascendant.
Synastry - some examples
Neil Kinnock, her Labour opponent for seven years, has the MC at 18° Aries. While another adversary, Arthur Scargill, has Venus at 15° Capricorn.
Her successor, John Major, has Jupiter at 15° Cancer (possibly on the Descendant). Tony Blair, who kept Thatcherism alive with New Labour, has Venus at 15° Aries square Uranus at 15° Cancer. The father of the modern Conservative Party, Benjamin Disraeli, was born with Saturn at 15° Libra. Current Tory PM, David Cameron, has his Sun at 15° Libra.
The two most famous Thatcher impersonators during her 'acid reign' in the 1980s were Janet Brown (the PM's personal favourite) and Steve Nallon, whose acerbic portrayal was often featured on TV in the satirical puppet show Spitting Image. Brown's MC is at 15° Libra and Venus at 15° Capricorn. Her new career was sparked off when Thatcher became PM (TR Pluto crossed Brown's MC). Nallon, whose portrait of the PM was not as gracious as his counterpart's, has the MC at 14° Capricorn (Saturn stands at 16° Capricorn on the MC opposite Mars at 16° Cancer on the IC). TR Neptune over his MC at the time of Thatcher's resignation effectively brought an end to his career, making him as redundant as the PM herself.
Portrayals of Thatcher by 1) Janet Brown,2) Steve Nallon and 3) Meryl Streep
Meryl Streep, who played Thatcher in the 2011 film The Iron Lady, has the Moon at 14° Taurus (on Thatcher's Descendant) and the IC at 18° Libra (on Thatcher's Sun). The film focused on her domestic life after power - it spent much time depicting a lost and bewildered former leader who resorted to talking to her deceased husband. It also offered flashbacks of scenes showing her triumphs, political battles and work ethic (Streep's Saturn is at 1° Virgo, near Thatcher's MC). When the film was released on 30 December 2011 (US) and 6 January 2012 (UK), Streep's Solar Arc Pluto was at 14° Libra and her Moon at 14° Cancer.
In each of Thatcher's major battles - and some were titanic power struggles (Jupiter-Pluto square to the Sun and Mars in Libra) - the mission, as far as she was concerned, was to restore balance and democracy (Libra), to defend "values and freedoms fundamental to our way of life", and to reinstate the 'great' in Britain. The break-up of trade union power (apex Mars in Libra in the 11th), the marginalization of Socialism and the reversal of Britain's economic decline were her key battles. She saw herself as a figurehead (Sun) for this crusade (Mars), yet so many of her policies and decisions contributed to a vastly different and unequal legacy.
At Thatcher's birth, the Sun and Mars were rising in the Falkland Islands - the place that was to cement her reputation for leadership, iron will, strength and dominion (Sun, Mars). The Brits won the Falklands War on 14 June 1982, as Saturn stationed at 15° Libra. War had been declared on 2 April, with Mars at 9° Libra and Saturn at 19° Libra.
Jupiter opposite Pluto is also indicative of the vast money her husband made - firstly through his preservatives firm, then its sale to an oil company (oil is often linked to Pluto) - as well as his international business ties and support of South Africa under apartheid. It was his financial support that enabled her to train as a barrister, and Denis (born with Venus at 15° Aries) was her cornerstone while she worked her way up in Parliament. The couple had met in February 1949, as TR Saturn was on her MC and TR Neptune at 14° Libra - some weeks after she had been selected as the Tory candidate for Dartford. They married on 13 December 1951, when TR Saturn was at 13° Libra.
With Mars in Libra, Thatcher never had much interest in debate but she did thrive on argument. At its best, Mars in Libra cherishes its own ideal of democracy, equal opportunity and a free society and economy. Rather than the rashness that so often characterizes Mars in its own signs, in Libra there's a firmness of resolve towards a logical argument, a clever combative stance, a skilful persuasiveness and a strong rationale (Air) behind decisions made and kept:
The codes of right and wrong lie at the bottom of every decision... They account for her inflexibility... and for the lack of imagination or real interest in debate. (Penny Junor, Margaret Thatcher: Wife, Mother, Politician, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1983.)
T-squares are like pressure cookers: underneath, there's a huge amount of tension needing to be released - stress from parts of ourselves that are at odds with each other. T-squares are usually the source of much energy and edginess, and they demand resolution, action and discharge. There's sometimes a state of paralysis because we are aware of the importance - and fearful of the influence - of these matters in our life.
The most outstanding and memorable aspects of our character and life stories are found here. So too are the self-defeating, frustrating 'blocks' that can accumulate if we don't understand (or perhaps if we overemphasize) this configuration of enormous potential and transformation.
© 2012 Frank C. Clifford - all rights reserved.
| Frank Clifford is an astrologer and palmist and the author of a dozen books on these subjects published in eight languages, including: Getting to the Heart of Your Chart: Playing Astrological Detective (2012), Solar Arc Directions (2011), and Palmistry 4 Today (2010). |
Frank runs The London School of Astrology, lectures internationally, gives online 'webinars', and hosts the annual Astrology Student Conference (2013: 1 and 2 June, London). For more information, please visit www.flareuk.com. Frank can be contacted by email at email@example.com.
Chart data and sources
Notes & References:
- Tony Blair:
- 6 May 1953, 06:10 GDT (-1), Edinburgh, Scotland (55n57, 3w13). Source: Birth certificate quoted by Caroline Gerard. RR: AA.
- Janet Brown:
- 14 December 1923, 07:45 GMT (+0), Rutherglen, Scotland (55n50, 4w12). Source: Birth certificate quoted by Caroline Gerard. RR: AA.
- Jimmy Carter:
- 1 October 1924, 07:00 CST (+6), Plains, Georgia (32n03, 84w24). Source: Birth certificate quoted by Caroline Gerard; CAO Times states that the time (usually CST) was set to EST (-5) for business reasons - both time signatures give a Libra Ascendant. RR: AA.
- Benjamin Disraeli:
- 21 December 1804, 05:30 LMT (+0:00:40), London, England (51n30, 0w10). Source: Sy Scholfield quotes the biography The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield by William Flavelle Monypenny and George Earle Buckle (Russell & Russell, 1968), p.22. RR: B.
- Edward Heath:
- 9 July 1916, 'night' GDT (-1), Broadstairs, England (51n22, 1e26). Source: Sy Scholfield quotes the biography Edward Heath by George Hutchinson (Longmans, 1970), p.3: 'on the summer Sunday night'. RR: C.
- Neil Kinnock:
- 28 March 1942, 14:00 GDT (-1), Tredegar, Wales (51n47, 3w16). Source: David Fisher quotes Russell Grant, who obtained the data from Kinnock's aunt. RR: A.
- John Major:
- 29 March 1943, 'between 02:00 and 04:30' GDT (-1), Carshalton, London, England (51n22, 0w10). Source: Frank Clifford quotes birth certificate for date and place. Time from Major to Russell Grant. RR: C.
- Steve Nallon:
- 8 December 1960, 14:00 GMT (+0), Leeds, England (53n50, 1w35). Source: From him to Frank Clifford, quoting his aunt. RR: A.
- Roman Polanski:
- 18 August 1933, 10:30 GDT (-1), Paris, France (48n52, 2e20). Source: Birth record obtained by Luc de Marre, quoted in the Taeger data books Horoscope Lexikon. RR: AA.
- Ronald Reagan:
- 6 February 1911, 'early morning' CST (+6), Tampico, Illinois, USA (41n38, 89w47). Source: Date and place confirmed from various sources. Joan Quigley, Nancy Reagan's astrologer, rectified the time to 03:43. RR: C.
- Arthur Scargill:
- 11 January 1938, 14:00 GMT (+0), Barnsley, England (53n34, 1w28). Source: David Fisher quotes Richard Llewellyn, who obtained the data from the NUW. RR: A.
- Meryl Streep:
- 22 June 1949, 08:05 EDT (+4), Summit, New Jersey (40n44, 74w22). Source: Note from birth registry from Ed Steinbrecher, copy on file. RR: AA.
- Denis Thatcher:
- 10 May 1915, Lewisham, London, England (51n27, 0w01). Source: Biography, Below the Parapet by his daughter, Carol Thatcher (Chivers, 1997), p.30. (Dennis Thatcher). RR: X.
- Margaret Thatcher:
- 13 October 1925, 09:00 GMT (+0), Grantham, England (52n55, 00w39). Source: From her private secretary to Charles Harvey. RR: A.
- Thatcher 'Assisi' Quote:
- 4 May 1979, 16:09 GDT (-1), Westminster, England (51n30, 0w09). Source: From The Margaret Thatcher Archive, www.margaretthatcher.org/document/104078. Time given as '1608'. The quote was spoken one minute into the interview. RR: A.
A configuration with dissociate aspects (e.g. where two legs of a T-square are in one modality but the third leg is in another) is still important, but the statement seems not to be underlined to the same extent as a regular configuration where the planets fall in the expected signs.