by Boots Hart, CAP

Friday, August 6, 2010

CHART USA (Pt. 4): The Ascendant/Descendant - America's Pros and Cons

Chart USA(ppomatox)
 April 9, 1865

The chart for the surrender of General Robert E Lee to General U.S. Grant (ironic, no?) at Appomattox Court House, Virginia gives us a rising of 18 Virgo.

The Ascendant (rising) of any chart is its 'aperture' to the world - the 'funnel' through which all energies described by the chart pour as they exit out into the world. The reason for this is a simple reflection of what the Ascendant is - a calculated point representing the degree of the zodiac which was 'rising' over the horizon directly east of where you (or the event) was realistically 'born' as that moment occurred. 

Why that would be is as follows: there are 360 degrees in a circle, right? And the Earth turns once on its axis (completing one circular revolution) every 24 hours. Actually not quite, but certainly close enough for discussion (and one reason why computers are so lovely to have around to do all the numerical calculation hair-splitting!)

Basically, if you multiply 24 (hours in a day) by 60 (minutes in an hour) then divide that by 360 (degrees in a circle or planetary revolution), what you come up with is that each degree of the zodiac rises - at the due east horizon point - for about 4 minutes a day. Yes there are variations given latitude and time of year, but this is the basic idea. As Earth turns, that point on the horizon is Earth turning forward in time...making that very spot on that there horizon (metaphorically speaking) the 'Now' of it all.

And this is why the Ascendant is considered to describe personality: what/who you are in the moment. That's why the Ascendant is associated with action - the what you're doing at the moment. And this is no different for a national chart than it is for a personal, corporate, pet or any other kind of chart.

So! What do we know about 18 Virgo? We know that Virgo being an earth sign all about tangibles, this Ascendant would be associated with concrete actions and stances which 'mean something' and which 'stand the test of time.' And yet,Virgo is a mutable sign - meaning it learns as it goes along. So the USA described in this chart is a nation which follows a mutable course of action, which means it does a little at a time and tries to 'course correct' at every step. Virgo's aim is always constant - Virgo is a sign all about working towards a goal while maintaining necessary standards.

This manifests in a whole other way as we understand that while Virgo is about maintaining necessary standards, when positioned at the Ascendant it may also very much spell out a nation which attends to necessities only as they become necessities. 

Part of the key to this lies in the degree of rising as eighteen. Eighteen is a 2nd decanate/emotional degree which implies that the US responds to emotional appeals. There's something of the hero/martyr complex implied here, though with Vesta (service) positioned right behind the Ascendant we should expect that. The  credo about (giving me) your tired, your sick and your poor is very much in line with this statement and there's really nothing about the chart which says the US will know to limit itself to its own people or national boundaries.

Far from it, actually. But to see that, we should look at the Ascendant/Descendant axis in detail...

...starting with 18 Virgo being a degree sympathetic to the underdog and the helpless - which fits with its 2nd decan emotional nature. Also known as a degree which recognizes underdeveloped potentials, there's a symbolic ability to help or exploit implied here. And that this last bit (the help or exploit part) may tend towards exploiting more often than one might like is made far  more likely by the Ascendant being a calculated point rather than a planet, asteroid or whatnot else.

Anything with mass, metaphysically, you can "get hold of" and thus 'teach' or 'train.' But 'points' - be they one of the four axis terminals (the Ascendant, Descendant, Nadir-IC or Midheaven-MC) ...or one of the societal Nodes, or calculated Lilith, or one of the Arabic Parts such as Fortuna (the Part of Fortune) which we see used and useful in many charts...these are things you have to stay aware of and on top of all the time.

There is an interesting question very much American also posed by this degree, that being all about the difference between discrimination and the ability to discriminate, as in discerning between two things. Given that there's a touch of 'fearing you cannot trust' also ascribed here it's no wonder the US of A grown out of this chart has issues about trusting other countries.

According to this however, the issue is not theirs, it's America's. That isn't to say there aren't monsters in the world (or even under the national bed) - but there's a distinct issue about trust itself which is uniquely America's own issue to deal with. And when it doesn't, it will almost certainly project that lack of dealing with the problem on others - which makes it hard for a nation to know who are really the bad guys and who is just being imagined as the bad guy.

One more item about this degree as a specific degree: it undermines what it does by investing in those unworthy of protection. No, I'm not naming names (or even economic sectors) but America and the world....we all probably have our own lists here.

Back to Virgo as a sign, it rules health care/workers, civil servants, the military and all things which support other processes and achievements, from infrastructure to widget makers. If it's about making things more workable, supporting any worthwhile achievement, that's Virgo.

With the Ascendant we have four objects: a black hole, Nemesis, Vesta and Bali. Bali, the only one of the four in the first house of 'I Am' clearly portrays the United States as a land of opportunity.

The black hole is interesting here; it tells us that other nations/peoples see the US as something quite other than that which the US sees itself as - and that the US will have a hard time understanding why they think that. But they do! 

This black hole also says that the US works to be and do differently; black holes always representing an 'alternative reality,' here we see those fundamental differences regarding freedom and all which goes with that which is so American.

Against this however, we also get that what America chooses to do (Ascendants being all about action) often get the nation into a mire; how the US sees the rest of the world is not quite true-to-life either. Practically, this should warn the nation against wading into situations it truly doesn't understand. But does it? Obviously not always.

With the area just 'behind' any axis a most powerful position, the black hole and Nemesis (standing up for the truth of the situation, despite lack of popularity) marks the US as willing to speak out. But again, it doesn't always know what it's talking about. Nor does it - as a nation - understand how others take what the US says.

With Vesta (service) here and so naturally expressive in Virgo (a sign all about effort to improve things) the US as an 'aid nation' is clearly delineated.

Even more interesting to present day (2010) politics is the idea that when Pluto rolled over this black hole-Nemesis-Vesta-Ascendant back in the 1960's, Kennedy was killed at the black hole point and President Lyndon B Johnson took over. As Pluto rolled on through Virgo over Nemesis and Vesta (heading for the actual Ascendant) LBJ initiated his 'Great Society' programs including Social Security.

This is also the time of Martin Luther King, Jr. as inspiring leader of the civil rights movement, all the marches he led and ultimately, the passage of America's Civil Rights Act. 

Martin Luther King, Jr.  

And American music's 'British invasion,' all of which ushered in the 'hippie years,' feminism and protests in the streets - all of this being the very sort of major societal shift we would expect to see when a natally 8th house Pluto (transformation of joint values) would forever change the tenor of a nation's 'voice' by conjuncting its Ascendant.

Now undergoing fundamental changes in the wake of Pluto having moved across the Nadir/IC (the bottommost point in the chart) into the 4th house, the US is now in an extended period of 'lifestyle' and internal change which is to be expected to last until 2017-2018 when Pluto moves on into the 5th house. The conjunction to expansive Jupiter in the house of the native citizenry and real estate coinciding with the 2008 collapse of the economy sets an essential stage for all which will happen during this time.

It is also to be anticipated that when Pluto reaches the Descendant in 2057 that programs started by LBJ back in the 1960s will be eclipsed, too. What that means is a whole other discussion, but that's the date to look forward to. And for those who keep saying Social Security is going to be 'eliminated' before then, probably not. It may get modified, yes. Age limits, adjuncts (etc.) are likely to get tested and modified every time Pluto arrives at 15 degrees of any sign. But a complete elimination of the program looks unlikely until the late 2050's.

Opposite the Ascendant (what the nation does) is the Descendant - who it plays to and the legacy the nation leaves in its wake. Here we have Chiron - the need to do what seems impossible to tackle. And that recalls things like the building of the Panama Canal, a project first proposed back in the 1500's but which nobody wanted to touch with a 20-foot shovel until the early 1900's.

 Building the Panama Canal - 1907

Speaking of Jupiter, Canal building was completed under Pluto conjunct Uranus (transformative innovation) and opposing Jupiter. In building this canal, the US not only helped Panama, but paved the way for increased transport of goods, a move which helped the US built its own national (Jupiterian) wealth base.

Did the US know how hard it would be the build that canal? Heck no - and that it didn't is a prime example of the whole Ascendant complex. Others had scouted the problem (black hole/Nemesis) but the US didn't listen. 

When engineers  got there they found out the job was a whole lot harder than expected. But the US saw the need and on a metaphysical basis, because the Canal was something actually useful to the whole of the world, the US has ultimately benefited from its construction. 

 View of the Panama Canal

That's how the US Ascendant-Sun (and all which goes with same) works. It is to be noted about the Canal project that though there were critiques and criticisms and the inevitable cries of 'imperialism,' the world pretty much acknowledged the Panama Canal is a good thing. 

So really - this is the perfect example of the US using its chart for the truly good. May all concerned take note! 

Back to that Descendant. With Orpheus-the-would-be-rescuer here we see a poignant US descriptor: Orpheus wanted to save his lady love Eurydike but couldn't resist the one instruction to not look back. The US undoes itself repeatedly by 'looking back' in every sense of the term.

With fertility god Makemake positioned here, the US will always be seen as a champion of children. This is also the signature of such diverse things as pre-natal care, fertility medicine/birth control, the right-to-life movement and both the strides and blindness the US has/will continue to display in attitudes towards children, parenting, rights of each, what constitutes a family unit and all which goes with that.

On a whole other level, Makemake in Pisces is a  'protective parent' symbol which causes the US to reach out to the world with agricultural assistance and aid of various kinds.

Last we have Hidalgo (rescuer/warrior for causes) conjunct Eros (passion); clearly the US gets off on playing the part of the hero. Does the nation know others see the US as a nation which dons the cape and cowl without being able to manage its own household all that perfectly? Probably.

This combination also says a lot about the love/hate relationship the US has towards passion in general. As passionate as the US is, it's not always comfortable with the depth of emotion which goes with passion - be that physical, emotional, cultural or spiritual. This is a struggle which will go down in history; unlike ancient Rome (with which the US has been compared often enough) the United States is loathe to give way to total wantonness. In this we see its own attempt to 'rescue' itself from what Rome collapsed under: unbridled, un-managed, un-critiqued passion.

 The Roman Senate - Maccari-Cicero

And yet - ironically - for this attempt to come true, there have to be passions for the US to try and rescue itself from. So when we contemplate whether there will ever be an end to national scandals ethical, moral, sexual, financial and of every other kind...probably not as long as this chart holds. And yes, the tabloids are happy about that.

Next week, a couple of blogs on more planetary pictures ("picturing" the United States as a nation) and a more detailed look at transits of today, tomorrow and beyond.


To answer a question posed by a couple of readers: why so much time on the US chart? Is it just because I'm a US citizen? No - that's obviously part of it, but the real reason to spend this much time on one subject is because no chart for the United States has been established as the chart for the United States. This chart not only works in static form (just looking at the horoscope) but works as time marches inevitably along (as shown by transits, progressions and solar returns).

What I am doing here is laying out a (hopefully people-friendly) academic series which once done can live happily on the Internet and be there to inform and provide researchers with a reference in all the years to come.

Thanks for reading and staying tuned. Together we are making a bit of a metaphysical impact!


  1. I found this portion of the US Chart discussion most interesting.

  2. "
    What I am doing here is laying out a (hopefully people-friendly) academic series which once done can live happily on the Internet and be there to inform and provide researchers with a reference in all the years to come."

    Fantastic reference material. Very user-friendly for astrologically-ignorant folk such as myself.