Border Patrol: Working With Cusps

There is a very common misconception in astrology today concerning the usage of cusps in interpretational matters.  It seems there is a very popular myth running around that says that someone who is born on a “cusp” of a Sign can carry characteristics of both the Sign Sol is counted as being in or the one adjacent to it depending on the day.  Basically, it is assumed that someone born around August 21-24 is supposed to have characteristics of both the Signs Leo and Virgo based on the idea that Sol is too new into Virgo to have completely left behind the influences of Leo, so there are still some Leonine influences intermingled into the Virgo.  While this is a very incorrect idea, I can see some ways to explain the original misunderstanding; however, I do think the assumptions made about cusps are based on a certain degree of unforgivable ignorance.

First, I think it’s wise to take a moment and define a cusp because I feel it is obvious where the first mistake is being made concerning this grave assumption.  Deborah Houlding is an expert on classical astrology, so in times of need, I often turn to her writings, and I’ll do so here.  In her book The Houses: Temples of the Sky, Houlding defines a cusp as “the dividing line between one house (or sign) and the next.  Planets close to the house cusps are considered to have more powerful influences than those removed from the cusps.”  This definition perfectly illustrates what I believe is happening with this cusp influence myth.  As you can see, Houlding does define a cusp as “the dividing line between one house (or sign)…” so we do see an automatic similarity.  I believe what happens is people understand that a cusp is the same thing for a house and a Sign (the dividing lines between) and assume that the same rules apply to them.  However, the fact of the matter is that house cusps and Sign cusps are similar only in the manner of the duty they perform in dividing them from one another.  In this way, the cusps are as similar as apples and oranges, they are both fruit, but that’s about it.

In Houlding’s definition, she is sure to put a distinct difference between house cusps and Sign cusps when she says that planets close to the house cusps have a more powerful influence.  She says nothing about planets being close to Sign cusps being more or less of an influence in any Sign, so it would seem that there is no interpretational difference, only spatial.  Also, in William Lilly’s book on natal astrology, he offers no differences for planets near the beginning or ending of a Sign.  Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos doesn’t even contain the word “cusp” and Robson’s treatise on electional astrology only speaks of cusps in relation to houses.  So, it seems that the idea of carried-over influences from one Sign to the next is not at all founded in astrological traditional history.

Now that the idea of cross-overs occurring across Sign cusps have been dispelled from the astrological tradition, I feel it’s necessary to explore a bit more in the area of “where does this come from”.  I can think of a couple situations in which a planet or cusp being near the end or beginning of a Sign has some special interpretational value.  However, it is necessary to specify that these rules and situations are only applicable to the fields of horary or electional astrology and are not translatable to the field of natal astrology which is the field where this argument is based.

The first situation in horary astrology is where the Ascendant is in an early (0°-2°) or late degree of a Sign (27°-29°).  In interpretation, the astrologer would judge this as saying the situation inquired about has not fully developed (if the Ascending degree is early), or that the person asking the question already knows the answer or has already made up their mind and the chart won’t change it.  Now, this has nothing to do with individual planets, and so I feel cannot entirely be used as evidence to support the Sign Characteristic Cross-Over myth as we are discussing house cusps in relation to Sign cusps, not planets in relation to Sign cusps.

The other situation is exactly what we’re looking for.  When a planet is near the end of a Sign about to enter another one, it shows that the state of the person signified by that planet is about to change.  For example, when Venus is in the last degrees of Leo, it means that whoever is signified by Venus’s state is going to worsen because Venus is going from a status of wandering to a status of essential depression in the following Sign of Virgo.  Now, this fall has not occurred yet, but it will occur in the near future.  Similarly, Venus in the first degrees of Libra signifies that the state of the person signified by Venus has recently greatly improved as Venus has moved from her depression in Virgo into her domicile of Libra.  Now, the basic interpretation does not change, Venus at 28° Leo would be interpreted the exact same as Venus in 15° Leo, the only difference is that there would be a disclaimer involved mentioning the fall in the near future.  This is the nearest actual instance of a planet near a Sign cusp being considered different than a planet in the middle of a Sign that I can think of that would possibly evolve into the Sign Characteristic Cross-Over myth, however I still cannot understand the great jump in assumption from saying that a planet’s dignity in the adjacent Sign is considered in interpretation to saying that someone born with Sol near a cusp exhibits both Sign characteristics.

The problem with this idea is that – frankly – it’s shallow astrology.  The idea is that Sol – thanks to the theosophists – has become the most important planet in astrology.  This runs contrary to the millennia of astrological tradition which holds Sol as just one planetary energy among seven.  If Sol is close to a Sign cusp, then he must exhibit qualities of both.  This is ridiculous as a planet is either in a Sign or it is not, there is no in between as there is with house cusps due to the fact that Sign cusps are not as permeable as house cusps because Sign cusps are permanent, unlike house cusps which change based on time and location.  Now, I’m sure there are people who relate more to a Sign that is not their Solar Sign, this can be explained three different ways.  The first is that if Sol is in Aquarius and someone feels they are more like a Pisces, they may be overlooking their Mercury and Venus placements which are bound by the position of Sol in the Zodiac.  Mercury cannot be more than 27° away from Sol and Venus cannot be more than 47° away.  So, Mercury and Venus may very well be in Pisces, making you feel more sympathetic to the Pisces qualities.  Secondly, the other six planets are not being taken into account, you may find that several of them are in this other Sign you feel you relate to more, or perhaps some of the planets you have are conjoined with stars that exhibit qualities and natures similar to Signs you feel you relate to.  Lastly, the Lord of Geniture is not being taken into account, and that will have a lot to do with it.  The Lord of Geniture is the strongest planet in your birth chart, and the planet and Sign that planet occupies may speak a lot about your nature and explain why it is you feel you relate more to another Sign (say you’re an Aquarius with Jupiter as your Lord of Geniture and you feel like you relate to Pisces more).

Sign Characteristic Cross-Over myth: debunked.


3 thoughts on “Border Patrol: Working With Cusps”

  1. Ha, who would have thought that a Christmas gift would have something about this written in it. Apparently, in the 1930s, the astrologer who went by the name of Cheiro – William John Warner – invented the idea of cusps to help people who weren’t clear on what Sign they fall under. Since the sun moves into the Signs at slightly differing dates each year, it made it difficult to pinpoint what Sign they really were due to the mathematical processes that weren’t readily available and understood by the mainstream public. So, Cheiro came up with the idea of the cusp, which he said ran for seven days at the beginning of each sign.

    “…the cusp lasts for seven days, consequently, the full influence of this sign comes into power about the 28th of December and lasts until 21st of January, when another seven day cusp begins under the influence of the next incoming sign.”

    Quoting Cheiro’s “The Stars and You” on that one, but giving the credit to Kim Farnell’s “Flirting with the Zodiac” for having this useful part of astrological history within its pages.

  2. Thanks! ^.^

    I remember when I was writing this I was so mad at a friend of a friend who wouldn’t listen to me about it. :S Hehe.

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