Signs a quarter year apart (that is, exactly a season apart) are considered in conventional astrology to be at cross-purposes with one another.
The relationships among them is called square because they divide the year equally by four. Texts I studied 25 years ago called square signs “malefic” with respect to one another. Nowadays, “challenging” is the usual term, but it’s typically a euphemism, Square angles have a bad rap in familiar astrology.
In cultures all over the world figures like the one in the circle center below are used to symbolize wholeness or balance. In North America, the Medicine Wheel is a circle with four “square” rays, one for each of the directions. Each direction, like the season with which it is associated, has its own attributes. Ideally, one is conversant with all four.
In many traditions, four is the number of manifestation. According to the ancient Greeks and Romans, all of matter was composed of four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. There are four cornerstones of a building, a foundation deemed necessary for what endures.
The signs square one another have the same role in their respective seasons:
- Pisces, Gemini, Virgo, and Sagittarius, which end with the solstices and equinoxes are transitional months. Typically the weather during these months is unstable and unpredictable.
- Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn, which begin with the solstices and eqinoxes, are at the apex of their seasons. During these months, the seasons reach their peaks, as the earth warms or cools to match the solstice or equinox just having occurred.
- Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius, occur when the season is old and the weather seems most monotonously predictable. Creatures feel a rumbling restlessness during these seasons.
Astrologers call these roles mutable, cardinal, and fixed, respectively. The mood or tone or energy quality of signs square one another is similar; the similarity perhaps heightens the effect one has on the other. But summer is indeed different from autumn, which is indeed different from winter.
Our own cultural outlook inclines us to value single-mindedness. We admire people who set out to achieve a great goal in life and succeed. We also admire consensus and take little pleasure in genuine differences. In America, particularly, we have paired equality with sameness.
During the Civil Rights movement we struggled to make the races the same; during the Women’s Rights movement, we struggled to make the genders the same. Any mention of difference was taboo, for difference imposed a requirement to rank one group superior to the other. We could not entertain equality and difference at the same time. Fortunately, this attitude is slowly changing.
Imagine the four seasons as four people sitting round a table discussing what the world looks and feels like.
There you have squares. You might imagine them arguing, because none has ever experienced the reality of the other. Or, you might imagine them amazed at and utterly fascinated by what they hear. Square relationships give us precisely that choice.
Squares, which force us to encounter differing points of view, adding breadth and dimension and understanding, actually hamper both single-mindedness and like-mindedness; thus our consternation with them.
People with sun signs square our own, the ages of life square our own sun sign, and seasons of the year square our own sun sign are often the most instructive and enlightening, or infuriating, depending upon our attitude. When dealing with squares, it behooves us to relax, open our senses, exercise detachment, and see what we can learn. The effort will be amply rewarded.
Squares challenge us to try new skills or modes of expression. If writing is comfortable but speaking is not, for example, a sign square our own may coerce us into speech. If we’re used to making our way through life with our good looks or money, the square find us managing by our wits. If we take the risk, we wobble, go forward blindly, and discover some new capacity in ourselves.
Under the influence of a square, be it person or our age or the season of the year, we discover, willingly or not, that we are mere parts of a whole, that we are not all-knowing, all-capable, all-aware and not likely to become so.
Indeed, the challenge is to accept and even celebrate ourselves as having a valuable part to play, a place in the orchestra even if not the conducting role.
With people whose signs are square our own, we can choose an attitude of immense frustration (if I’m right then he must be wrong) or great fascination (how in the world can we both be right when we seem so contradictory). What we have here is precisely the parable of the blind men and the elephant.
If I am the one holding the elephant’s tail, will I squabble with the one holding the ear about the nature of the elephant, or can I accept the notion that I don’t know everything and listen with keen curiosity?
The challenge of squares is this: believe, ardently, in your own perceptions and experience and believe what others tell you about their experience, even if the two conflict. If this can happen, what a gift squares can bring.