Houses and Angles in Astrology – 4:
Angles in the Horoscope
– Written and compiled by Philip Graves Sep 6-11 2004
– Reformatted for WordPress, June 5th, 2016
Ascendant, Descendant, Midheaven, Immum Coeli
The Ascendant signifies affairs pertaining to the First House. Similarly, the Descendant signifies affairs pertaining to the Seventh House; the Midheaven or Medium Coeli corresponds to the Tenth House; and the Immum Coeli or Lower Midheaven relates to the Fourth House. In the judgement of the matters governed by each of these four angular houses, the angle that is on its cusp should be considered by its sign and aspects received (conjunctions being of foremost importance), together with the sign and house placement of, and aspects received by, its Lord.
While any planet in the angular houses is of increased strength, this is particularly so of one posited in the Tenth House or the First House; and additionally if conjunct (as measured by degrees) the Midheaven or Ascendant such a planet will be greatly strengthened in its importance within a figure.
More specific concepts of three of these angles are compiled below.
The Ascendant describes the body and its material wants, physical appearance (both purely structural qualities of appearance, and the facial expression and outward mannerisms), constitution (health), and vital resilience.
According to Alan Leo it also has significant bearing upon the mind, intellect and ‘disposition’, but above all the brain as the ‘controlling centre of the body’, and the ‘expression of the Ego in the physical world’. He links it to inherited and parentally derived character traits, stating that only with maturity can the inner being represented by the Moon and Sun express itself more freely.
Sasha Fenton states that the Ascendant sign shows ‘one’s earliest experiences of life’ (which include, according to Jeanne Avery, the ‘circumstances of birth’), ‘early programming’, and ‘environmental factors’ (in contrast to genetic ones) that, as Avery notes, influence the personality and mould the survival instincts. Fenton suggests that the characteristics of the ascendant sign are adopted to fit in with how authority figures early in life are perceived by the individual as expecting him or her to be. Peter Damian regards the Ascendant as showing not only the physical form and early environment, but also the individual’s ‘aspirations and will’.
Howard Sasportas regards the ascendant as showing our concept of life and existence; our perception of the world outside; and also our expectations when faced with changes and new beginnings, and our way of undertaking them.
According to Dane Rudhyar, the Ascendant signifies the ‘intuitive awareness of self, or of individuality’, and is connected to ‘dharma’, highlighting the ‘central potentiality which the person should seek consciously to actualise as a vessel or lens through which the Divine may act’.
The Ascendant has been taken to indicate the way in which one approaches and confronts one’s environment (especially outside the home); the elements of one’s personality that one projects outwardly to others (‘outer manner’ or image), particularly in impersonal, public situations; and, therefore, the first impressions others obtain of oneself.
Martin Schulman regards it as the personal point of consciousness, likening it to a ‘doorway’ between the inner being and the outer environment, governing ‘the way in which the inner being makes contact with the external environment… [and] receives and gives illumination (from and to the outer environment)’. He also sees it as a ‘filter’ of the individual’s many inner potentials and of the world’s many external realities, serving usefully and productively to selectively focus the individual’s energies (as shown by the overall birth-chart) upon a ‘meaningful field of expression’ in the outer world, since it is ‘important for us to selectively identify with those [external] conditions that directly affect the evolution of our own [inner] karma’. And through its function as a selective integrator of the inner self with the external world, he sees the Ascendant as determining the individual sense of identity, or ego, and showing the ‘way in which we find personal expression through the ego’.
Robert Hand calls the Ascendant a point where ‘energies of the self pass from the inner realm to the outer and are made manifest to the not-self’.
Moore and Douglas agree with Alice Bailey’s view that the Ascendant shows the ‘intended life or immediate soul purpose for this incarnation’ and the ‘force which, rightly used, will lead the man to success’. They add themselves that it describes ‘what a person may become if he can actualise his spiritual potential’.
The Ascendant is sometimes portrayed as a put-on, acted ‘persona’ or ‘mask’ of ‘psychological devices’ that is automatically put up to protect the individual from being truly known by others when he or she ‘feels less than safe,… scared [or] uncertain’ (Avery): a ‘façade’ that he or she ‘hides behind’ for reasons of survival and safety; or (as Fenton puts it) a ‘shield’ that ‘hides and protects the real personality, thereby allowing us to assess any situation before relaxing and revealing our true feelings’. As such it is considered under the individual’s conscious control, adaptable to different situations, selectively allowing others to see the personality in a particular light. Yet it will always take the form of the particular sign of the zodiac on it, modified by aspects to it and by the situation of its dispositor. Most astrologers therefore regard it as an intrinsic part of the true personality, although perhaps the most easily outwardly expressed part. Hand notes that it shows the impression that others obtain of oneself and the effect that one has upon others through a combination of personality and actions.
The Descendant describes one’s consciousness of and interactions with other people in the environment, and indicates qualities of the type of individual to whom one feels attracted with a view to partnership situations, as well as the nature of the partnerships that one experiences. It also shows some of the qualities we tend least to identify with ourselves.
Rudhyar describes the Descendant as showing the manner in which one approaches interpersonal relationships that involve ‘mutuality’ and equality, whether through co-operation and sharing, or through conflict and enmity, with others who differ from oneself.
The Midheaven or Medium Coeli traditionally signifies career, marks of status, public reputation (including fame, honour and dishonour, and social standing), worldly situation and position, social contributions, external life direction, and ambition for personal achievement. On a psychological level, it shows, according to Sasportas, ‘the image we wish to present to the world’, which is manifest in choices of clothing and self-description, as well as in public behaviour; and ‘those qualities for which we want to be admired, lauded, looked up to and respected’. Hand calls it ‘the point of greatest self-externalisation in the social world’, and comments that it tells ‘what one needs to do with one’s life in order to grow’. Fenton further connects the midheaven to the ‘type of person whom you find attractive’.
Stephanie Clement departs from tradition in asserting that the Midheaven shows the ‘ability to mediate between the world of Self and the world of Other’, and links it to ego-consciousness, resistance to change in one’s personal ideas and feelings, and the development of spiritual awareness and awareness of one’s ‘personal creative potential’.
Anti-Vertex / Vertex; East Point / West Point axes
The Anti-Vertex and the East Point (or Equatorial Ascendant) have both been proposed as sensitive points acting as ‘auxiliary Ascendants’ (Maritha Pottenger). Their influence is believed to manifest in personal identity, needs, self-expression, and actions. They function as parts of two-point axes in connection with their opposing points; and both ends should be considered by sign and house placement and close aspects, with particular consideration for conjunctions. The sign and house placement(s) of the Anti-Vertex and the East-Point, for instance, will add a slight emphasis of the nature of the signs and house(s) concerned to the expression of the self. Any conjunction will emphasise the end of the axis concerned in connection with the conjoined planet or principle, and often to the detriment of the opposing point on the axis.
Pottenger similarly regards both the Vertex and the West Point (or Equatorial Descendant) as being akin to auxiliary descendants, showing the emotions and experiences sought through close personal relationships, and the qualities that one is inclined to project onto others, unconsciously seeking their expression in them. In the case of the Vertex especially, she perceives this projection mechanism as externalising responsibility for a part of one’s own self, and tending to attract the characteristics of this ceded part in others in exaggerated form.
Donna Henson, citing Delphine Jay as a source, additionally characterises the Vertex as showing how one is perceived by others on the basis of one’s past actions and one’s personality, as indicated by the Midheaven and Ascendant; and what others expect one to do, with positive self-development rewards to be reaped if one succeeds in doing this, and negative consequences for personal integration if one fails.
Vertex and West Point in Synastry
In synastry, Pottenger has often found one of these points in close conjunction with a personal planet or one end of an angular axis belonging to the other person, where significant binding ties are involved. This may be the Ascendant / Descendant axis, the MC / IC axis, the lunar nodal axis, or even the other person’s Vertex / Anti-Vertex or East Point / West Point axis.
Henson corroborates this finding with regard to the Vertex in particular, stating that its conjunctions to an angle or planet in another person’s nativity ‘may help explain strong associations between people… that otherwise do not seem to be indicated, or they may reinforce those that do have other indications’. She adds that the malign influence of a malefic conjunct the Vertex in synastry can be offset by a conscious decision by the Vertex person to express towards the planet person the sign quality of his or her Anti-Vertex.
Vertex as ‘Fated’ Point
The Vertex, first named and researched by L. Edward Johndro, is believed to have a connection with fateful encounters with both circumstances and people. Henson states that it shows ‘fated or destined’ role to be played by the individual, or a quality required to complete the personality, with which he or she is at first uncomfortable, but which takes personal form through the mediation of uncontrollable events involving other people.
Vertex in Predictive Astrology
Hand finds the Vertex to be active in dramatic situations that are ‘not characteristic of one’s ordinary life’. John Townley found transits of outer planets to the Vertex to bring turning points in life whose significance may not be registered by the individual affected at the time, but will be in retrospect. Henson comments that the aspect type will describe the influence of the transiting planet on the individual, with conjunctions being most powerful. She also notes that transiting eclipses that activate (by conjunction or opposition to within a three-degree orb) the natal Vertex will stimulate the individual to activity of the nature of the natal Vertex by its sign and house placement.
Henson comments that whenever the Vertex is ‘activated’ by aspects (this may apply to those involved in transits or progressions), or by its own progression into a new sign, the individual is obliged to display and grow in its particular qualities (as shown by natal or progressed sign placement), and will tend to take actions of their nature, in response to whatever situation has occurred.
Where aspects are involved, this situation (‘how we are apt to be compelled’ to express the Vertex qualities, as Henson puts it) will be described by the nature and placement of the aspecting planet (or point), considered together with the houses over which this aspecting planet is the Lord, and any other aspects received by this aspecting planet. The overall significance of the situation, the difficulty level (harmony or disharmony) involved in resolving the situation through the expression of the Vertex qualities, and the consequences of the situation to the individual, correlate primarily with the type of aspect thrown to the Vertex by the activating point or planet, with conjunctions and parallels being strong influences in the nature of the aspecting planet or point, while oppositions, squares and quincunxes are generally negative but present great opportunities for growth.
The manner in which the natal (or progressive) sign qualities of the Vertex are put to use in response to the situation will be shown by the nature of all relevant aspects (natal and transiting or progressive) to the Vertex itself. The house placement of the Vertex natally and by progression can show the areas of life over which any situations involving the Vertex being activated have the greatest effect.
In solar return figures, Henson has found that aspects, but most especially conjunctions, of the Vertex to both solar return and natal planets will frequently bring, in the year to follow, significant ‘life-altering’ events of the nature of the planets involved, often as expressed through their solar return houses.
Vertex in Mundane Astrology
Henson reports that the Vertex is often involved in a major aspect configuration in the figures for significant mundane events having a ‘fated’ quality, whether the aspects involved are found solely between transiting planets, between transiting planets and the previous solar eclipse, in transits to the natal or progressive figure for the country, institution or other entity involved, within the progressive figure for this entity, or between its progressive and natal figures.
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