"We are born at a given moment in a given place, and like vintage years of wine we have the qualities of the year and of the season in which we are born."
The Significant Other
This article looks at close one-to-one relationships - personal, business and rivals included.
The Ascendant/Descendant axis is one of the most important factors to study in a chart. The Ascendant is the key to self-discovery as it defines how you present yourself to the outer world. It forms the cusp of the first house and as such it is associated with identity - how you see yourself and how others see you. It can also refer to personal qualities and attributes, physical appearance and your initial approach to life. This is the point of the chart that describes how you learn about and express yourself. The point directly opposite or 180 degrees from Ascendant is known as the Descendant. It forms the cusp of the seventh house and the sign here is the one that was setting in the west at the time of birth.
As the seventh is the first of the social houses, the Descendant marks the beginning point of outward expression. It is here that we enter the realm of relationship. This is the place in the chart that describes our experience of others - how we deal with interpersonal relationships and how we develop our understanding of and connection with other people. The natural ruler of this house is Libra - a sign that is essentially concerned with creating balance, and as such it brings lessons regarding the integration of opposites. This being so, even though the Descendant might be said to relate to our ideal self, it is important to remember that this position can reveal either collaboration and alliance or competitiveness and conflict within our close associations.
The Descendant sign illustrates distinctive qualities regarding the impulse for liaison - our general attitude to those we are in close contact with, what we seek from them, what we give to them and how we relate to and respond to them. Not only does this point describe who you are drawn to and get along with, it also shows the way you endeavour to work harmoniously with others and how you interact with them both on a personal level and in business. The manner in which you deal with controversy, compromise and issues of equality are shown here too as are traits that may be precarious in an adversary.
All relationships entail a certain degree of give and take, co-operation and conciliation. Used to its highest potential the Descendant can show the way to harmony, peace, equanimity and accord. Along the road to this lofty ideal, it is the place where we meet hidden or unacknowledged aspects of ourselves and possibly too, unhelpful attitudes in our approach to others. It is often through interrelationship conflicts we come into contact with the shadow part of our nature or we may tend to project an urge, impulse or aspect of ourselves on to someone else - albeit unconsciously. Careful and honest study of this point in the chart can reveal why we tend to meet the same problems in our closest affiliations over and over again - the challenge being not to reproach the other person but to look within. Our expectations of others can also be shown here, realistic ones and otherwise.
By definition, the Descendant is the opposite point to the Ascendant and from this we can infer that our sense of identity is influenced by the relationships we attract into our lives. The sign on this point can represent a quality you like in yourself or one you feel is lacking and so seek in others in order to compliment your own life path and to experience a sense of completeness. Thus, it is perhaps true to say that the particular qualities and attributes we seek - and admire - in a partner, are the very qualities we perhaps need to develop and consciously work towards and acquire within ourselves.
"Used to its highest potential the Descendant can show the way to harmony, peace, equanimity and accord."
As the cuspal point of the seventh house, the Descendant advises about important people in the life. It governs committed relationships, hence business and personal partnerships, associations with lawyers, mediators and consultants come under its rulership as does marriage, close one-to-one links and long-term associations. It is also said to rule open enemies - rivals, opponents and competitors - it is after all the counterbalance to the Ascendant, the house of self. Furthermore, it reveals your needs as regards relationship and how they may be fulfilled, as well as what you want from the other person and the response you give in return.
While Libra is the natural ruler of this cardinal air house, the majority of charts are likely to have a different sign on this cusp, and the quality it falls in can suggest wants, desires and requirements within close links: a cardinal sign suggests a need for initiative and dynamism, a fixed sign a need for permanence and stability and a mutable sign a need for variety and change. Nevertheless, the sign, house placement and aspects of Venus should always be carefully examined when relationship matters are being considered.
The element of the Descendant sign gives valuable information as to attributes we find desirable in a partner as well as elements within our own nature we do not want to own. A fire sign at this point of the chart suggests a need for energy, enthusiasm and inspiration within close links or it can give rise to an impetuous, confrontational or argumentative attitude to others. An earth sign implies a need for practicality, stoicism and usefulness or it can be intractable, disapproving and controlling. An air sign can occasion a need for feedback, objectivity and a good flow of ideas or it can induce a restless, overly compromising or indifferent approach. A water sign intimates a need for nurturance, care and support or there could be a somewhat smothering, jealous or impractical stance towards other people.
A few examples of each sign will serve to illustrate the possible import of each Descendant sign.
Aries engenders a potent need to find self in others as with this Descendant, relationships tend to be very much connected to self-image. Often, they are seen as an adventure and so an active, assertive partner is likely to be sought. On the other hand, aggressive or egotistical feelings can be credited to others. With Leo, the need for loyalty, creativity, fun and passion is accentuated, but arrogance, self-importance or pride may be projected too. Free-spirited links can be attracted with Sagittarius. With the Descendant here, few emotional demands may be placed on the partner but attributes of recklessness or extremism could be ascribed to others.
This article was first published in the Astrological Journal 'Altair' in August 2007.
Taurus looks for security, assurance and stability. It wants to establish firm links built on practical values, but obstinacy, possessiveness and laziness can arise in associations too. One of the main themes with a Virgo Descendant is a tendency to look to others for the perfection perceived as lacking in self. At the same time, there is a need to be of service to others, though there can be an extremely critical response if personal expectations are not met. Others can be approached in a responsible and conscientious manner with Capricorn, but the desire for commitment and respect can incline to dominate relationships.
Gemini accords a need for variety and versatility and so a vibrant yet self-sufficient partner is likely to be preferred. Others can be charged with being inconsistent or superficial. With a Libra Descendant, the need to share the life with another is paramount as is the urge for fairness and justice in relationships. However, self-projection can unbalance equanimity. Aquarius confers a need for the unusual and so tends to attract interesting, surprising and out-of-the-ordinary relationships. At the same time, the desire for freedom space and latitude implies waywardness, insensitivity or eccentricity could be projected on to others.
Cancer searches for emotional surety, comfort and nourishment from others but personal needs can be cast on to a partner. With a Scorpio Descendant, relationships can be viewed as a vehicle for transformation and as a process wherein deep change can take place. However, others may be perceived as suspicious, secretive or vengeful. Relationships can sometimes be challenging with Pisces as gullibility or escapism can occur. However, they incline to be approached with compassion, idealism and great sensitivity too.
The house position of the ruler of the Descendant also elicits a lot of information. In an angular house, the focus is on outer activities that help develop a sense of self both on a personal and at a social level. When placed in the first house, personal relationships assume great importance - but sometimes to the detriment of self. The desire to share a home is strongly emphasised when the ruler is in the fourth house. Partnership is paramount with the ruling planet in the seventh - it can show the type of person you exert a pull on and ones that can cause you problems. With the ruler in the tenth, there can be a desire for a partner that can increase your social standing.
When the ruler of the Descendant is in a succeedent house, the focus is on the necessary resolve and continuity required to sustain relationships. In the second, partnership can be an important factor in the utilisation of your personal gifts and means. In the fifth, there can be a strong pull to romance as ardour and pleasure in a relationship is desired. With the eighth house, money and mutual resources can be important - it signifies the potential for success in shared resources or it could be that finances cause problems. A dominant factor when the ruler is in the eleventh is friendship as so placed shared interests, hopes and dreams are sought.
When the ruler of the Descendant is in a cadent house, the focus is on the adjustments and flexibility needed in order to maintain relationships. The ruler in the third can signify that communication with your partner is good and effective. On the other hand, the partner may dominate your thoughts and ideas. When in the sixth, the partner - business or personal - may be very helpful and ready to assist in practical matters. In the ninth, relationships can tend to be very much of a learning experience, and in particular, shared intellectual and spiritual ideas appreciated. With the ruling planet in the twelfth house, privacy about your personal life is required. This placement also suggests partners can be a source of hidden strength or a source of discredit.
"... this axis refers to the measure of assurance and awareness that is needed in order to sustain balance and equilibrium in our links with other people."
As with all Astrological configurations, delineation is a complex matter - planets in the first or seventh house, all aspects to either side of this axis and to their rulers all have to be taken into consideration in order to get a full and clear picture regarding personal connections. In particular, it is important to note that any planet(s) closely conjunct the Descendant can subtly shape relationship matters in accord with the nature of the planet involved.
For example, to individuals with the Sun here, relationships give their life significance and purpose but they can tend to give their power to other people or make them the focal point of their life. With the Moon emotional comfort and assurance will be sought and given through close links. Mercury here suggests a strong need for close communication and exchange of ideas. Venus indicates tremendous value is placed on relationships and Mars at this point implies they can be exciting and invigorating - or combative. Jupiter suggests links with those of a different culture religion or educational background could be meaningful whilst Saturn could grant a sense of responsibility in relationships or a fear of being controlled. The outer planets so placed have a powerful impact too - Uranus looks to others to bring a spirit of unconventionality, Neptune can confer a spirit of idealism or confusion and Pluto can provoke a sense of intensity and renewal.
Being one of the angles of the chart, the Descendant is an extremely powerful point - particularly so in the study of synastry. As the counterpart to the Ascendant it indicates where we may need to achieve a fresh perspective. In other words, this axis refers to the measure of assurance and awareness that is needed in order to sustain balance and equilibrium in our links with other people. In other words, the test of the Descendant is the gaining of unity and true accord - to attain an equal concern for self and for the significant other.