Using antiscia to connect the planets, stars and zodiac
What makes antiscia and contra-antiscia especially unique is their symmetry around the four seasonal turning points.
Words Kate Petty
Aspects of astrology and antiscia
Marriage, integration, holism, sympathy and union in symmetry. These keywords all describe a special aspect of astrology called antiscia.
Antiscia are reflections. Noted in various texts since antiquity, they create unique pairings across unexpected signs and degrees in the zodiac. Astrologers use antiscia as an additional way to show how planets connect. Other terms for antiscia and contra-antiscia through the ages include seeing and hearing signs, signs of long and short ascension, commanding and obeying, straight or crooked signs, and signs sharing power or agreeing in the journey.
This article focuses on antiscia and temperament in the thema mundi and the zodiac generally, and whether to call antiscia an aspect, planetary pair, or something else. I will offer ways to incorporate antiscia into your astrology practice and study. As you read through this, consider planets and signs in your own chart.
As astrologers we essentially work with three circles. The circle of the year is the Earth’s rotation around the Sun, the twelve signs of our zodiac circle. The diurnal circle, the motion of the Sun from our perspective on Earth comprises the Houses in a chart. Lastly, the aspect circle shows phases between planets. We note important phase relationships between planets when they are in geometric configurations or aspects. Antiscia function in all three circles, but here we are mainly interested in antiscia as another way to show planets in relationship.
Examining antiscia is like looking at a calendar day and its partner day at another point in time. These days share equal amounts of light, referred to by ancient astrologers as signs of equal power. Envision forty days before the solstice and forty days after. These days share the same amount of light and darkness and are thus in antiscia to each other. In the case of contra-antiscia, the two share rising time; the planetary day hours of one are equal to the planetary night hours of the other.
The major geometric configurations, related metaphorically and possibly more directly to musical harmonies, are the four traditional aspects: trine and sextile, at 120 and 60 degrees, square and opposition, at 90 and 180 degrees. Some practitioners use more obscure though fascinating aspects like the quintile 72 degrees (circle divided by five), and so on. With antiscia, it’s not the degrees between planets that make the connection, it’s the planets’ equidistance from a common centre point defined by the cardinal axis — as described below.
By traditional Ptolemaic aspect, signs that “see” each other are those that share some affinity. Affinity occurs through sharing triplicity (element) as in the trine, or quadruplicity (mode) as in the square, or sect (gender) as in the sextile and opposition. Signs not making one of these aspects are said to be in aversion and cannot see each other. Modern astrologers call this an “inconjunct” or “quincunx” if the aversion is close by degree. Curiously — and one of many reasons to explore antiscia in your practice — many ancient astrologers agreed that antiscia mitigate aversion.
Hellenistic era astrologer Ptolemy states in his book, Tetrabiblos: “[Disjunct signs] are the ones which belong neither to the class of commanding or obeying, beholding or of equal power…”
If antiscia can join disconnected points in a chart, why are they not included in traditional aspect doctrine? This may be due to terminology like aspect and conjunction. Aspects and the conjunction reveal ways planets connect and influence one another. Their pairing always conveys meaning. Planets in conjunction work together according to their natures. A conjunction denotes co-mingling and co-presence, planetary energies blended and acting together. A conjunction differs from an aspect in that aspects are said to offer testimony and see one another, whereas with the conjunction there is a kind of invisibility. If we picture the sun near a planet from our perspective, we cannot see that planet.
Twelfth century philosopher and astrologer Ibn Ezra wrote: “You always have to look at degrees that are of the same ascension. An example is when one planet is 10 degrees Aries and the other is at 20 degrees Pisces, so the distance of both of them from the Line of Justice [equinox axis] is equal and they are considered as being in conjunction.”
There is a special case within fixed signs; occasions of antiscia where two fixed signs are in middle degrees and square one another at the same time. An example would be 17 degrees Taurus connecting to 13 degrees Leo. The range within fixed signs for a square aspect in antiscia falls roughly between 10-20 degrees. In Oprah Winfrey’s chart, for example, Saturn at 10 degrees Scorpio is antiscia and square Mercury at 20 degrees Aquarius, indicating something concrete in the world pertaining to communication. If you have planets in this range in fixed signs, you may have one of these powerfully sympathetic squares.
Esteemed 17th century astrologer William Lilly wrote about and used antiscia, saying they shared the same virtue. He likened antiscia to sextiles or trines, and contra-antiscia to squares or oppositions. You’ll even find in his table of “signs not beholding one another” that he considered these contacts as ways signs see each other.
Astrologer Rhetorius of the early Byzantine era stated: “Signs that are disjunct but having sympathy for each other are all the equal-rising signs, and those having equal power, and those of like zone.”
Antiscia in the thema mundi
Several years ago, I discovered how antiscia appear in the thema mundi — a hypothetical chart of the world and conceptual diagram used to illuminate many essential components of astrology. I had not previously encountered this. It occurred to me after working with antiscia for some time while studying Hellenistic and Persian astrology.
I recommend spending time with the thema mundi. It’s a simple scheme revealing much about our craft. Without going into great detail here, let’s address those parts pertaining to antiscia.
You’ll first see the symmetry of planets’ ruling signs, which makes a strong case for using traditional rulers in astrology. Next, note the seven visible planets placed in their signs of exaltation. Then see the aspects connecting each planet in its exaltation back to its respective domiciles (home signs). Note how the Sun and the Moon connect by trine and sextile back to their domicile from their places of exaltation in Aries and Taurus. See how the nocturnal planets Venus and Mars, in their places of exaltation Pisces and Capricorn, connect to one of their domiciles by sextile (Venus rules Taurus, Mars rules Scorpio). The diurnal planets, Jupiter and Saturn, connect to their signs Pisces and Aquarius by trine.
The planets traditional astrologers call malefics, Mars and Saturn, in square aspect to their remaining domicile. Benefics, Venus and Jupiter, connect to theirs by antiscia/contra-antiscia. This sets up a schema:
- Diurnal = trine
- Nocturnal = sextile
- Malefic = square
- Benefic = antiscia
All planets connect in two ways through two aspects. (Except Mercury, which is both exalted and in domicile in Virgo, and can be day or night sect.) Nocturnal planets by sextile, diurnal planets by trine. Secondarily, malefic planets by square and benefic planets by antiscia.
Just as the square aligns with Mars and Saturn and highlight’s themes of work and activity, the nature of the benefic planets, Venus and Jupiter, are to unify and stabilise. Is the quality of the connection inherent in the contact?
These specific antiscia and contra-antiscia pairs (Pisces to Libra and Cancer to Sagittarius) are also signs in aversion. It’s likely relevant that these (seeing and hearing) links, described for thousands of years as having sympathy and reception, are portrayed here through the convivial planets Venus and Jupiter. These are also signs of sharing, (ie. signs that share power [equal amount of light = antiscia] and ascensional rising time [contra-antiscia]).
Temperament and sect
Another important feature to note with antiscia, and the zodiac generally, is temperament. The symmetry of signs and their planetary rulers in the thema mundi underscores the notion of coming together and making whole. Every antiscia sign and its sympathetic connection share one thing: they cross boundaries of sect or gender. The so-called feminine or night sect signs meet with the masculine day signs. Earth and water signs (Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn, Pisces) comprise the night group, while air and fire signs (Aries, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Sagittarius, Aquarius) align with the day.
Each traditional planetary ruler manages two domiciles. Beginning with the lights managing jointly: Cancer and Leo, cool moist pairs with hot dry. The domiciles are opposite in temperature and quality. There is completion, a marriage uniting all qualities. With Saturn signs you find cold dry Capricorn and hot moist Aquarius. Natural opposites unite under one ruler. So, it goes with the remaining traditional planets and their domiciles. This link of night to day sign reiterates how everything we experience has a dual nature; two polarities present within one. The affiliation imbues a unifying, integrated quality.
Antiscia are said to share power and sympathy, with each sign pair sharing the quality of either moistness or dryness. Moistness unifies while dryness creates distinction. We can think of empowering or joining forces, and with sympathy feeling together. The contact becomes ultra-moist or ultra-dry. Consider Libra with Pisces. Both are moist and each seeks to connect in its own way. With dry Taurus and Leo, the rugged individualist. With Sagittarius Capricorn, a kind of hermit philosopher vibe. Returning to Oprah Winfrey’s chart: of the seven traditional planets, she has three in Aquarius connecting to two in Scorpio. She passionately (Scorpio) connects people in dialogue (Aquarius) all over the world.
Whereas all other aspects share some affinity, contra-antiscia unite unlikeness. They join total opposites not found through any other aspect or connection, and they indicate balance, union, and integration. Naturally opposing energies may become whole. Consider contra-antiscia in musician Beyoncé’s chart: the Sun in Virgo (night, cold dry, mutable) reflects Venus in Libra (day, hot moist, cardinal). Also, Beyoncé’s Mars in early Leo (day, hot dry, fixed) reflects Uranus in late Scorpio (night, cold moist, fixed). All elements, modes and sect are connected within these two pairs!
Connecting earth and sky
What makes antiscia and contra-antiscia especially unique is their symmetry around the four seasonal turning points or cardinal axis. Light and dark, day and night, and the turning of the seasons affect everything on earth. The cardinal cross expresses the Earth’s rotation around the Sun and the Sun’s path through the sky. Rhythms in light determine the calendar and twelve zodiac signs, conveyed through the sequence of the seasons. The Sun’s apparent path along its ecliptic outlines these patterns.
This cycle’s most important turning points occur at the Cancer and Capricorn solstice (sun standing still) and Aries and Libra equinox (equal night), when the Sun comes to zero degrees of each of the four cardinal signs. The annual Aries ingress, specifically, can be conceptualised as a global reset. As the Earth Ascendant and starting place of the tropical zodiac, the chart for this moment has been used for centuries in mundane forecasting.
Given that the Sun’s relationship to the earth animates and supports all life, the cardinal cross becomes a living breathing expression of the divine spark in matter. This could be perceived as the anima mundi (world soul) embodied by the celestial sphere and the Sun’s path from our perspective on Earth. It is the solar year, the ensoulment of the planet.
“This world is indeed a living being endowed with a soul and intelligence … a single visible living entity containing all other living entities, which by their nature are all related.” Plato, in the Timaeus.
As something we can see (the Sun’s light) and experience (the warmth of the Sun and days growing longer or shorter), antiscia become tangible aspects of the anima mundi. To me this makes antiscia unique, memorable, earthly and real.
Turning points, applying antiscia
A final way to conceptualise antiscia is to think of them as a midpoint. This term may be new to you, but it’s helpful to complete our survey with one more tool and perspective. Like a triangle with its apex, the centre point focuses the energy. Three distinct components are tied together. With antiscia, the focal point is the cardinal axis.
Astrologers also call the cardinal axis the Aries Point or Earth Point. The Aries Point is the Sun’s node, as it is the intersection of the ecliptic and Earth’s equator, and is the point we all share. (Node simply means intersection.) Because of this, some astrologers interpret this point and axis as relating people to the general public. Alfred Witte, a visionary early twentieth century astrologer, considered the Aries Point to be an important point for relating people to the world. He considered it our least personal individual point in astrology.
Cosmobiology, a school of astrology emphasising midpoints and emergent in the 1940s, discarded facets of what came to be known as Witte’s Uranian Astrology, one of those being use of the Aries Point. If antiscia had not been discarded at that time, its use may have resurfaced many decades ago.
Contacts noted in Oprah and Beyoncé’s charts show they are recognised on the world’s stage for their energetic expression of purpose in affectionate and aesthetic ways. Both have Sun Venus Mars on the axis. With Beyoncé, Uranus adds excitement; with Oprah, Mercury Saturn indicates more serious discussions, topics with gravity.
We have established that some astrologers believe antiscia indicate invisible connections, while others liken it to a kind of aspect. Either way, antiscia are symmetrical connections around the cardinal axis that make a meaningful alliance and statement.
My favourite way to work with antiscia is simply to contemplate the planetary alliances forged. Think of them as planetary pairs. These are two planets making a midpoint to the Aries Point or Earth point, adding significance.
Finding antiscia in the chart is easy. They are measured along the ecliptic (the Sun’s path) so are simply zodiac degrees. Because antiscia are reflections, the exact degree-based connections will always add up to thirty.
You can calculate antiscia by hand. There are also websites that display or list antiscia for you.
Everyone has reflections in their chart. Sometimes antiscia and contra-antiscia degrees in your chart are occupied by another planet or angle, making the alliance come alive in the world. Sometimes antiscia are latent — waiting to be activated or energised. With synastry, another person’s planet or angle can complete the connection for you, bringing forth themes pertaining to that planetary alliance. At other times, the transiting or progressed sun and other planets may activate latent antiscia.
As a parting example, consider the chart of Kamala Harris, the first female person of colour elected United States Vice President. Born under a powerful full moon in Aries, her Libra Sun is conjoined to Mercury in Scorpio. The Sun in late Libra is antiscia her Midheaven in early Pisces (her purpose and aim in high visibility). Without antiscia these would be in aversion and disconnected. Her Mercury exactly reflects Saturn in Aquarius (disciplined discussions of law and structure). Because the Moon is precisely opposite the Sun, it also reflects the Midheaven by contra-antiscia within minutes. The distinctive, pioneering Aries Moon aligns with the point of public projection in a highly personal way.
Antiscia are not required for visibility in the world, but like an angular planet in a chart, points in antiscia bring special focus and importance. I interpret antiscia pairings, especially those in a close degree-based connection, as just as powerful as other aspects.
Find more from Kate Petty at ambientastrology.com