If we were to observe the soul in the family by honouring its stories and by not running away from its shadow, then we might not feel so inescapably determined by family influences. Strongly influenced by developmental psychology, we assume we are ineluctably who we are because of the family in which we grew up. What if we thought of the family less as the determining influence by which we are formed and more the raw material from which we can make a life?
- Thomas Moore
While developmental psychology emphasises the influence of the parents and family in human growth, astrological doctrine suggests their imprint is already etched upon the soul at birth. Astrological intelligence challenges most psychotherapeutic ways of thinking about family offering a more intrinsic point of view. Its perspective suggests that the images of the parents, the familial complexes and inheritances are innate within our horoscope, which suggests that the soul already has an essential template for its experience. The birth map already suggests the familial disposition. Family is our fate and even though it is often much easier to blame the parents or even the planets, Moore suggests we participate in shaping our destinies from the raw materials inherited from family. Astrology allows us to reflect on familial fate and ways of being authentic with our ancestral inheritance.
Traditional astrology has bequeathed us many familial images. For instance, the 3rd house was continuously seen to be the territory which indicated sibling issues and dynamics, while the 4th house revealed the sphere of the parents. Ptolemy specifically stated that “the Sun and Saturn are by nature associated with the person of the father and the Moon and Venus with that of the mother”. Conditions concerning the mother and father such as death, illness, life span etc. were then delineated according to certain configurations with these and other planets.
From a contemporary point of view the notion of family has been amplified to include many other considerations such as the family of origin, familial inheritance, the parental marriage and ancestry. From a more soulful point of view the astrologer can take into account the family atmosphere and heritage in order to better appreciate the individual’s disposition to particular planetary conditions. Our astrological inquiry into the family can be a journey into a fuller understanding of our place in the family and our relationships with other family members. However, it can also serve as a lens to view how some of our responses and patterns have been shaped by the family. Understanding the influence of the family supports our acceptance of the ‘real’ self.
The horoscope is systemic as it reveals the family system, the network of the extended family members. The family image is within the horoscope and therefore the family can be studied from the perspective of one natal chart. The horoscope not only suggests your responses but also how others in the family may respond or behave in the system as well as how you participate in the web of the family story. While contemporary astrology suggests that the lunar constellation (sign and house of the Moon and its aspects to other planets) illustrates your perception and experience of your mother, it also portrays her, as well as her heritage. Aspects to the Moon reveal the inherited archetypal makeup through the lineage of mother. Systemically this might reveal aspects of mother’s psychological character as well as those in her familial line. Similarly the Sun can reveal father’s lineage while the other inner planets may indicate other family members such as siblings, aunts, uncles etc. Astrological symbols are multi-layered and therefore familial images in the horoscope not only reveal the effect and influence of the family, but also family members, the climate of the family, familial patterns and situations. Using the astrological symbols imaginatively in the context of the family experience reveals deeper insights into our familial inheritance. All these insights can be gleaned through the analysis of one horoscope.
When other family members’ horoscopes are analysed it is apparent that an astrological web of connections is woven throughout the family. Often similar planetary aspects, signs and zodiacal degrees are repeated throughout various generations confirming the familial connections through time. It is as if the soul matter of the family is revealing itself through these patterns. Liz Greene expressed it in this way:
“It is perhaps more difficult to envisage the psychic substance of the family as one substance out of which the lives of its individual members are moulded, to such an extent that particular planetary aspects repeat among the charts of family members without any perceivable or understandable causal basis”.
There are many ways to articulate familial images from the horoscope and we will begin with the houses. There are two trinities of houses associated with familial issues. When assessing family in the horoscope the houses of endings, the 4th, 8th and 12th, are the spheres most immediately connected with ancestry and the familial inheritance. The water trinity focuses specifically on the family atmosphere, legacy and unconscious complexes that have helped influence and shape our character. The 4th house has always been connected with the parents; by extension the other water houses also reveal the family dynamics. The 8th focuses on familial inheritances and the psychological involvement with the past, while the 12th suggests the legacy of the ancestors.
However, the houses of relationship, the 3rd, 7th and 11th, also play their role, as it is in these houses where our relationship patterns are shaped. These three houses focus on kinship, relationship and comradeship experienced in the familial environs and then taken out into the world. The 3rd house contains images of the sibling and early relationships which affect our adult relationships in the 7th and our friendships in the 11th. The 7th house also suggests our early experiences of relating through the dynamics of our parents’ relationship. In later life the 11th may also serve as the place where the early familial relationships are healed through our positive experiences with our friends and colleagues, who are residents of our 11th house.
The MC-IC axis is the parental axis, the axis of the family and the world, and as such describes the foundation stone of our inner security which supports our reaching out into the world at large. This axis combines the poles of the inner and outer worlds, the private and the public. Therefore the 10th house also needs to be included when speaking of the family imprint, as often the overt expectations and messages of the family are indicated by the astrological condition of the 10th house. In terms of the family and the family’s place in the world, the IC-MC meridian becomes an essential axis. Like the spinal column of the horoscope this axis supports and/or hinders our ability to stand erect in the world.
The other main axis of the horoscope, the Ascendant-Descendant, shows the more individual and spirited orientation of the family, perhaps more aligned with the limbs and the faculty of reaching out socially and personally into the world. The MC-IC axis resonates with the houses of endings while the Ascendant-Descendant axis is more aligned with the houses of relationship. To begin our exploration of the familial houses we will begin with the trinity known as the Houses of Endings, or sometimes the Houses of Soul. Aligned with the element of water in the natural wheel, these are the Water Houses, the territory of in-depth feeling, the past and also where our familial and ancestral images are located and interred.
Next we turn our attention to the planets to develop a way of thinking about them within the context of the family constellation. The inner planets symbolise both archetypal images of family and more specifically its members. The social planets describe the cultural influences on family life while the outer planets illustrate the complex and collective patterns which influence the family unconscious. Aspects between the inner planets and the social and outer planets will inform us of patterns embedded in family life and how these have helped to shape our character. They also will help to illustrate familial traditions and the impact of certain family members and the roles they played in our lives. While the planet may be embodied or personified by a person in the family, it is the attitudes and character of this family member that serves to help us understand this aspect of ourselves better.
Since the Moon is highly significant to thinking about the family astrologically, we will next concentrate on the lunar archetype as the container of family life. The Moon not only personifies mother and the family home, but also epitomises the experience of attachment and security in early life which becomes the emotional safety net for our adult relationships. Astrologically the Moon suggests our own personal style of attachment as well as the possible experience of our early sense of safety and well-being, which informs our ability to feel separate in later life. We will reflect on the multi-dimensional role of the Moon in the familial experience.
To conclude the first section on the astrology of family we will look at family positions and roles, commencing with the parents and the parental marriage. We will also look at the archetype of the sibling, our brothers and sisters, as well as roles that are assigned to us because of our position in the family.
This portion of The Astrology of the Family module is a review of astrological techniques and concepts learned to date which will be specifically applied to consider family dynamics and influences. Since the astrological model is already well known to you, we hope that this exploration will allow you to go deeper into your own understanding of both the horoscope and yourself. Following is a list of recommended astrological books which include insights into the family.
Bibliography and Recommended Reading
Bell, Lynn. Planetary Threads, CPA Press (London: 1999).
Clark, Brian. The Sibling Constellation, Penguin Arkana (London: 1999).
Edis, Freda. The God Between, Penguin Arkana (London: 1995).
Idemon, Richard. Through the Looking Glass, Samuel Weiser, Inc. (York Beach, ME: 1992). Reprinted by Wessex Astrologer (UK: 2010).
Greene, Liz. Relating: an Astrological Guide to Living with Others on a Small Planet, Samuel Weiser (New York: 1980).
Greene, Liz. The Astrology of Fate, Allen & Unwin (London: 1984).
Greene, Liz and Sasportas, Howard. The Development of the Personality, Samuel Weiser (York Beach, ME: 1987).
Greene, Liz and Sasportas, Howard. The Inner Planets, Samuel Weiser (York Beach, ME: 1993).
Greene, Liz and Sasportas, Howard. The Luminaries, Samuel Weiser (York Beach, ME: 1993).
Rudhyar, Dane. The Astrological Houses, Doubleday (Garden City, NY: 1972).
Sasportas, Howard. The Twelve Houses, Aquarian (Wellingborough, UK: 1985). Reprinted by Flare Publications (London: 2007).
Sullivan, Erin. Dynasty: the Astrology of Family Dynamics, Penguin Arkana (London: 1996).
 Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul, Harper Perennial (New York, NY: 1992), 31.
 Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, translated by F. E. Robbins, HarvardUniversity (Cambridge, MA: 2001), III.4.
 For instance see Guido Bonatti, Book of Astronomy, Volume II, translated by Benjamin Dykes, The Cazimi Press, Golden Valley, MI: 2007, 1235-1244 for Bonatti’s discussion on siblings and 1245-1256 for his discourse on the parents.
 Liz Greene, The Astrology of Fate, Allen & Unwin (London: 1984), 94.