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Composite Charts:


They grow on you…

On the occasion of Llewellyn’s reprint of The Composite Chart: The Astrology of Relationships a few thoughts on some of the implications of this once-new but now thoroughly-tested and widely-utilized technique:

In most astrology, we take for granted that a horoscope is a chart of a fixed beginning (of a person or event) that is as real at the outset as it ever will be. If you’re born with a grand trine, for instance, it’s forever. It’s not any less triney when you’re eighty than when you’re a month old, is it? It may temporarily progress out into other patterns, but it doesn’t fundamentally change as you grow. You’re born with it, you’re stuck with it, and the best you can do is take advantage of or adapt to it.

That’s pretty much standard astrological dogma, but it may not be entirely true – and the key to understanding that can be found in the composite chart which, unlike a natal, doesn’t have a beginning and yet seems to behave and respond very much like one that does. It’s a construct that has no innate starting point, as it is simply the reflection of where two natal charts meet, the reciprocal dynamic between the individual planets in each natal. So if it doesn’t get its power from a traditional beginning, the outflow of a set of initial conditions, then where does it come from?

Transits Tell The Tale

It comes from transits. It’s what you might call a reinforcement chart. Each time a transit passes from the Sun of one natal to the Sun of the next, the composite Sun marks the point where the cycle gets stronger for one individual and weaker for the other, a mutual power exchange that characterizes the solar part of the relationship. Now if a composite chart is a tangle of hard aspects, that means that the ongoing transit cycles to both individual charts are out of step and at odds with each other, so that what might otherwise be graceful power handoffs happening during difficult sky transits build into a set of unfortunate, repeated experiences as time goes along. A composite chart full of supportive aspects, however, means that the two individuals are mutually tweaked by easy sky transits, and things develop more smoothly, especially over time.

Thus, you can meet someone for the first time (who perhaps has nice synastry with you), and if the composite is terrible, you probably won’t notice it at first. In fact, you probably won’t notice it until you’re already knee deep in trouble you could have avoided. Or, you might meet someone you seem at first to clash with, but a good composite will smooth your path together and you’ll be glad you got together in the long run. That’s what’s so useful about composites – they allow you to hang on to what seems like a long shot and profit from it, and they let you to walk away, or run, from a disaster before it engulfs you. By its nature, a composite needs to have the gathering impetus and inertial momentum created by repeated transits to really gain strength, so you’ve got time to decide whether to stick around. It grows on you, for better or worse, and because you can see that ahead of time, if you don’t like what you see, you can end it.

How Different, Really?

But maybe that’s not so different from a natal chart, in ways we don’t think about. A newborn doesn’t know night from day until a couple of days (diurnal cycles) have gone by. And it takes a few months before the rhythms of the Moon can be felt. Indeed, the stages of childhood and adolescent development into adulthood are marked by the experience of repeating the cycles of first the Lights, then the inner planets, followed by increasingly slower Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The cycles we never repeat (of the outer planets) are strictly societal, and those planets simply mark our partly-completed bite out of something too large to experience completely as individuals. So, someone with a grand trine gets increasing positive reinforcement throughout life where those planets involved are concerned, and as life proceeds things really do get trinier. Unless, of course, you take them too much for granted and simply throw away the advantages they bring. And, folks born with grand crosses get ever more crossed up early on and have to untangle their lives later (if they learn from experience) or simply live with an ever-calcifying, if ever more predictable, affliction.  So you may be more of a blank slate at birth than you think, and the horoscope is simply the outer clothing your naked soul must grow into and deal with, in concert with the inner structure of your DNA.

In the end, if reinforcement of natal positions by transit and progression is the mechanism by which a birth chart unfolds, how different is that from composites? Not much, except that you can walk away from a relationship along with its composite chart, while it’s not so easy to walk away from yourself (well, it’s a lot more painful and permanent if you do). Of course, some reincarnationists believe your soul gets a peek at what’s ahead before you’re born, so that’s your choice, too -- which may be what led my ex-wife once to candidly surmise she’d been all-too-frequently stillborn!

Choices, Choices

Of course, since you’re reading this, you weren’t quite that picky at the outset, and you’re still hanging in with your own natal arrangements. But, the composite chart can indeed help you avoid that extra dose of joint karma that might be better put off until the next time around – or, it can be a good reason to hang together and make a marriage work, with time increasingly on your side…

-- John Townley, August 2009

For more on this and other books by the same author go here...


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