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It’s Not On The Map! 

-- The nature of composite charts means you can’t map them – because they’re not real charts at all, they’re artifacts.  Here's how and why...

By John Townley

If fortune isn’t smiling on you where you are and you’d like to give it a try elsewhere, the traditional astrological solution is to pick a potential place and do a relocation chart – that is, your instant of birth viewed from that new place. Same planets, different houses. Perhaps someplace that has your Sun on the Ascendant and not in the twelfth house, for instance, would be an improvement. Not everybody uses the method, but those who do swear by it.

Finding the best place to go can be a tedious process, however, requiring that you cast and recast new horoscopes for different prospective places until you come up with a winner. In the 1980s, astrologer Jim Lewis came up with a clever piece of cartography to solve the problem. He called it, cleverly, AstroCartography and it is a program that calculates global maps with lines over them that show where each of your natal planets will be rising, setting, at the MC, or on the IC. It saves a lot of time casting around, so to speak. You can even do it with natal midpoints. Various software programs are available that will plot such maps to help you out.

But how about relationships? What if you and your honey need to skip town and want to find a good place to hide out? Someplace that that’s cozy, private, and not on the map. How do you find a place to relocate yourselves, together? Simply plug in your composite chart to an AstroCartography program and off you go?

Alas, it’s not that easy. You could easily do that with a Davison relationship chart (a chart of the midpoint in time between the births of the two of you), but a real composite (a chart derived of mutual midpoints in space between your actual charts) isn't so easily moved, since it doesn’t have a location to begin with, unless you were both born in the same place. So what to do?

The original solution is to simply make relocation charts for both of you, and make a composite from those. Of course, to start with that probably makes the composite chart where you already are different than your regular one, and it’s hopeless if you’re carrying on a long-distance affair.

A Composite Map?

Another way to do it might be to make a composite map, a la AstroCartography, of lines made of up of midpoints of your relocated planet lines. That, however, opens yet another can of worms. Making an ordinary composite chart of mutual midpoints along the ecliptic is easy and fairly predictable, although it will sometimes turn up oddities like oppositions of the inner planets and some crazy house flips. But that’s midpoints along, essentially, a line. Try making line midpoints in three dimensions around a sphere and you get complete craziness, with planet and house lines suddenly vanishing and turning up, properly, on the other side of the globe or even beneath the earth – or, worse, off the map entirely. To construct a useful map derived from a composite chart alone would seem impossible.

The solution? There isn’t an easy one – and there may not be one at all. Matrix, in its Horizons program, has chosen a method that may not be ideal, but it does have the virtue of deriving a map from a single chart. Here’s what they have to say about it:

"Composite charts are not mappable in any ordinary way, so some kind of innovation is required. Not looking for controversy, Matrix has approached this problem cautiously. Instead of inventing a new kind of composite chart, we are taking a normal natal chart and placing the composite planets into it so that Horizons can draw composite planet lines on a map. The critical point is that these planet lines will match the relocated chart as expected. No other approach to this problem of composites has yet been found that produces an agreement between chart and map. We do look forward to exploring other approaches that we find to have merit."

This approach gives you a feel of some of the effects of relocation, and especially a read on the impact of the composite on one of the partners, but it’s a one-sided, artificial construct. Of course, if you were both born in the same town or nearby, it gives approximate results of a true, idealized composite relocation – and it might yield the same thing you’d get for individually relocating two charts to a third location and then doing a composite from there, if the program had that feature. Perhaps future versions will, not through a single chart algorithm, such as traditional AstroCartography is based upon, but upon an intensely iterative approach. That is to say, to be accurate the program would have to draw the lines by casting a vast net of relocated charts and then raising the lines from them, by connecting them point by point. The kind of stuff you do on a Cray supercomputer...and even then, you'd get lines that disconnect and vanish at odd points, surfacing somewhere else entirely or not at all. The resulting map would still be by no means coherent. Right now, and perhaps forever, the best method is to relocate both charts, then do a third – and if you don’t like the results, try it someplace else.

That's one of the problems with composite charts. They’re not fully mappable -- there are places that simply don't exist, aren't on any map, because they aren't real charts to begin with, they're artifacts. You will discover this, for instance, if you try to use composites to extrapolate your perfect partner, something I suggested in my book that introduced composites back in 1973. Let’s say you want to find somebody with a fifth house composite Sun with you (lots of fun together). Depending upon your chart, you may find that it simply can't happen, or at best you may have to settle for an eleventh house Sun. I’ve had that problem with clients looking to find someone that suits their fantasies. And it’s hard to explain to them that because of their own natal charts, some life options simply aren’t open!... 

So, if you still think there “ought” to be a strictly map-based composite solution, it’s probably because you don’t understand what composite charts really are and why they work, to begin with. That’s OK, few astrologers actually do -- they just go ahead and use them, because they work so well, and don’t ask questions. Yet, correct interpretation of what they really mean is dependent on knowing what it is you are interpreting. So here’s an attempt at a brief explanation:

"Midpoint Theory"

It’s all about “midpoint theory.”  But, unfortunately there seems to be no such thing. The loosely-used term generally means midpoint application, or technique, or analysis, but there is little, if any, published theory behind it. It’s just something you do that those rigorous Germans made up back in the 1920s. So what’s the story? Why do midpoints, as opposed to traditional aspects, have meaning, and from what do they derive it?

The answer probably lies in, and certainly has precedence in, the ancient concept of “translation of light” in which the aspect from a transiting planet moves from one planet to a second, making its transfer of influence at the midpoint -- along with the concept of a planet being “besieged” or at the midpoint of two malefics and thus subject to negative transit aspect-transfer of light and influence. Behind it all is the idea that there is a third party, and a third operation, going on – something cyclical that causes the midpoint to become sensitive and highlight the relationship of its parent planets.

Most often that third party is the Moon, which once a month lends its rhythmic conjunction cycle to every other body in the sky. Similarly, each individual body does that in relation to the angles as well each day, and in both cases the body receiving the conjunction is strengthened momentarily by this monthly or daily pulse. Less frequently, but inevitably, the third party is the Sun or another transiting planet according to its longer cycle.

As the Moon, for instance, moves from strengthening one planet to the next, it reaches a half-way point where its relative strengthening power switches from one planet to the next, and that is the midpoint. It is where the hand-off of power between one planet and another occurs, by transit, regardless of any aspect or lack of it outside of the conjunctions themselves. It is the “shoreline”, so to speak, between the sphere of influences between two planets, as crossed by a third body and defined by that crossing, and every other, as it occurs again and again.

By this definition, this constantly reinforced handshake rhythm that happens at a midpoint invokes the qualities of both planets and links them during any transit. Further, however, if the point itself is harshly aspected natally or at the time of a transit, then whatever planet touches it is afflicted and afflicting as well and passes that influence along to both planets for whom this midpoint serves as a transfer point, or border crossing. It’s all about relative power exchange between two bodies and what’s going on at the time it occurs.

The Composite Chart

This reinforcing effect of repeated transit cycles to a natal horoscope may well be an integral part of cementing into place the basic patterns of the personality as expressed by the horoscope, which builds itself as it grows, starting from birth, according to the regular pattern of the original planetary birth positions. In fact, it is possible this planetary cycle phenomenon, and its tendency through repetition to entrain events from the gross to the subtle, comprises the main physical basis for astrology and the only reason a composite works at all.

In the case of a composite chart, which is made up of mutual midpoints between two natal charts, it is this that causes the composite to become clearly stronger the longer the relationship is actually ongoing, and to become a strong dynamic force in the relationship above and beyond the basic, traditional synastry contacts. A composite chart is, after all, only a shoreline constructed between two real charts and lives only by the reflections of their repeated transits. As a couple, you live on that shoreline, and build your entire relationship there as time goes by – it is your mutual relative power dynamic. That is also why, for instance, progressed composites are a non-starter and have little or no meaning. The original constituent progressed charts are always in motion and therefore have no chance for the necessary repeated periodic handovers by transit necessary to build composite strength and significance.

This is also why the Davison relationship chart is a totally different animal. It is a chart of a midpoint in time, otherwise unrelated to either natal chart, rather than a chart integrally derived directly from the natals and the subsequent transits that affect them, and for that reason yields little useful information except where it coincides with the composite. A Davison chart, since it is a real single horoscope, can be easily mapped, but what would be the use?…

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