With the inconjunct and semi-sextile, you have aspects that are vaguely out of tune with one another. Planets that are 150° apart are awkward, and whilst the aspect creates a desire for connection, there is an discomfort, and a vague clumsiness surrounding the association. They’re like strangers thrown together on a blind date, both hoping it will work out, but a little anxious and uneasy with the process. The semi-sextile is a little easier, it’s a superficially harmonious aspect that still suffers from some awkwardness because in both cases, these measures of astrological association don’t have much in common. Planets in these aspects are inherently self-conscious.
This ought to be self-evident, and I’m writing today about awkward sign combinations not because I want to explore the dynamics of basic aspectual complexes, but rather I want to explore a phenomenon that is relatively unaddressed in astrology, but which is of almost critical importance in understanding the arc of human life, and the subjective experience of ‘beingness.’ Sounds pretty dramatic, right? Well, it is, and it affects every person in profound ways, and indeed, it is the cause of much difficulty in life, so it deserves considerably more attention in the astrological press than it currently receives.
What I’m referring to is the phenomenon of progressed sign change. This is the principle whereby every planet moves on the day for a year system, and gradually moves through the extremes of its birth placement until it finds itself in new territory. It is my firm belief that this shift of core astrological principle is rather profound and has undoubtedly far-reaching consequences. This shift is also entirely under-emphasised in the contemplation of inner drives and motivations, and an exploration of these ‘shifts’ is essential to the good understanding of oneself, and of one’s study subjects.
The most easily accessed of all sign-shifts is that of the Sun. And because the progressed system operates on a day for a year ratio, it’s also the easiest to gauge, since you can assume that your progressed Sun moves about a degree every year. That’s not 100% reliable because the earth’s transit about the Sun isn’t perfectly circular, it is vaguely elliptical, so the progressed Sun may move fractionally faster or slower than the mean, but even so, a degree for a year is a good rule of thumb. So if you’re born on July 1st and you’re 30 years old, you can rely on the estimation that your progressed Sun will be in the region of 10° Leo.
Which means that at around the age of 20, (give or take a year or two), your Sun began to shift from a lunar-focused paradigm, to an entirely solar outlook. The implications are many and diverse. Not least because the Sun gains enormous power at age 20, but also because one’s entire way of being undergoes a radical change of focus. If the Cancer Sun is ruled by a second house Moon, then sentimentality around items from one’s past are incorporated into one’s identity. There is material connection to the past, both personal and historical. Security is found in the tangible, and you portray that worldview in your self-expression, such that you might become known for what you own, or what you value. And then at age 20, that changes. The shift of emphasis begins tentatively and slowly at around the age of 17, and ramps up exponentially until you find that you are somehow inwardly ‘replaced’ with new priorities, and it becomes like the shedding of a skin, or the post-larval emergence. You might feel bewildered by your former views and values and there is a period of adjustment. Fortunately, as the Sun moves gradually into the final degrees of the preceding sign, this process does occur by shades, and your consciousness is shaped gently until it is ready to emerge into the new paradigm, but it is this very gentleness which masks the often profound measure of the inner change.
And this in part is the reason why it is so interesting to contemplate the awkwardness of adjacent signs. A soul born into a Cancerian solar consciousness has to undergo a near incongruous change of perspective to accommodate an all-new Leonine identity. And when you contemplate this principle, it is easy to appreciate that there is no sign-change which is straightforward, since all adjacent signs are inherently contradictory.
The move from insular, private Cancer to attention seeking Leo is self-evidently discordant, but every shift contains these same vague antagonisms. Think of the shift from Jupiter ruled Sagittarius, to Saturn ruled Capricorn for example. Or from Mars ruled Aries, to Venus ruled Taurus. The movement is usually inherently revolutionary.
And as an addendum to these principles we should not lose sight of the fact that even after the shift, your essential nature still describes your ‘baseline’ of personal expression. A Cancerian will never abandon his or her lunar nature entirely in favour of the new exciting Leo dynamic. Rather it is incorporated into the totality of one’s personality, adding a new dimension to one’s individual nature. It is as though the lunar way alone is fully explored, it has run its course and something extra is desired. So the new Leonine ingredient is added to create a more serviceable (to oneself) melange.
The Moon moves relatively quickly, and every two and a half years there is similar shift of emphasis in the inner life that is usually quite simple to accommodate and discern: the Moon is by nature tidal, plastic, osmotic. The Sun, Mercury and Venus all follow a generally similar annual pattern, and so their progressed cycles are often analogous in terms of duration, although the action of retrogrades complicates their effects. As we move further out, the progression of planetary cycles becomes ever more ponderous and shifts are rare. But you can be sure they are quite profound when they do occur. Think how much weight Saturn will accrue when shifting from Sagittarius to Capricorn.
But these changes are often accrued gradually enough that they are not entirely noticeable, even if – with hindsight – it is possible to appreciate how fundamentally a person (yourself, someone else) has changed over a span of years. What is more drastic, and often shocking is the progressed retrogradation of an outer planet moving through the beginning degree of a sign and falling back into the preceding sign.
This is especially true for those born with Pluto retrograde in the early degrees of Libra, where Pluto is supremely potent. The subsequent shift into Virgo equates to an almost complete loss of Hadean force, virtually overnight. Technically there is some small overlap, but the first degree of a sign is so self-contained that very little of the preceding sign’s energy can infect it. This is certainly not true for the final degree of the sign, whose power is waning fast (both reasons why these are ‘critical degrees’). And since astrology does not operate in a vacuum, there is usually some corresponding loss of power (or a paradigm shift in the sense of personal control at least), to accompany the event.
Consider the Bee Gees. That’s not a joke, but Andy Gibb, died aged 30 – of a heart problem, as Pluto retrograded to within 5 minutes of the sign boundary with heart-centred Leo. The enormous and relatively sudden increase in Plutonic force could not be processed by his soul in a timely fashion, so that energy found its way out through the body, as any overwhelming Hadean energy is wont to do eventually, if not catharsised in some way. Or consider Martin Luther King who became a martyr just as Neptune retrograded out of Virgo (where Neptune struggles immensely) and into Leo (where Neptune is astonishingly strong). And furthermore, King delivered his seminal “I have a dream” speech within 6 weeks of the sign change. But while these cases are dramatic, and far from the norm, nonetheless, the shift of sign by progression cannot be underestimated. It will in every case have powerful effects upon the inner life, and almost certainly have some influence on behaviour and motivation, thus affecting the outer life also.