T-Squares [Astrological Aspects]

Picture credit: Astrotheme

The T-square is one of the most common composed aspects in astrological charts, and understanding its energies is critical to interpreting all kinds of charts. They occur in natal, synastry, composite, and return charts. They can easily describe a person’s, or a couple’s, central life drama, depending on how they are wired into the chart, so knowing how to interpret them is key to distilling the meaning in a chart.

After some notes about their dynamics, I’ll interpret one to show how it works in practice.

The T-Square, Common and Powerful Composed Aspect

The T-square is formed when an opposition between two planets, points, or angles is bisected by a third planet/point/angle, forming squares to each planet in the opposition. The name comes from the T whose top arm is the opposition (long red dashed line in the figure) and drawing a perpendicular line from it to the third planet (not shown in illustration). The squares are shown as short dashed red lines in the figure. Key points:

  • The T-square’s general mechanism is that the opposition puts the native into a seeming no-win situation that is most challenging when s/he is young. It takes most people several cycles of experimentation before they start to get a handle on its energy. Each side of the opposition wants the opposite thing.
  • Most people try to deal with oppositions in three patterns:
    • They identify with one side of the polarity and suppress or reject the other. Since they need both energies in their lives, they attract people or situations that signify the repressed side. They fight against, or feel victimized by, the person/situation, but their real struggle is with the repressed side of themselves.
    • They alternate between the poles, first trying one and displeasing the other, then reversing.
    • They create a new synthesis that has elements of both sides. Of course, this is the way to use oppositions to grow; it requires one’s creativity and commitment—growth.
  • The tension from the opposition seeks release through the third planet, which forms the squares to the planets in opposition. This usually manifests in the native’s life through the house in which the third planet sits.

Now let’s see how this works in practice!

The Opposition Forms the Foundation of the T-Square

In the example (Thanks, Astrotheme), Sun in Aries is in opposition to Neptune in Libra, and they are both square to Uranus in Cancer. Let’s unpack their energies, step by step.

Sun in Aries is very sure of itself. Aries is the most yang of the yang (positive polarity) signs. It knows what it wants and doesn’t hesitate to go and get it even if it jostles other people if they get in the way. It didn’t mean to; it just didn’t see them.

Neptune in Libra is a very different energy. Neptune itself represents our gateway to “alternate reality.” Where Uranus resists earthly structures of all kinds, Neptune doesn’t bother because it knows they are illusions anyway. The way most people experience Neptune is through imagination, visions, illusions, deceptions, any way they experience alternate reality. Strong Neptune energy can manifest in involvement in film, fantasy, video gaming, and alternate reality trips (drugs). Neptune is oriented to universal consciousness and is given to ideals about humanity and caring for humanity and the universe. In Libra, Neptune is likely to be concerned about fairness, relationships, and other social concerns. The native may be given to idealized visions for his/her relationships with lovers, partners, and professional advisors.

Do you see the challenge here? Sun/Aries is very motivated and active and tends to shoot first and aim later; it’s unabashedly self-focused and very active. Neptune/Libra is ethereal and deeply concerned for others. Its interests tend to manifest in fantastic visions and ideals where Sun/Aries tends to be more down to earth. Sun/Aries prefers goals that it can relate to right now. These seem to be incompatible, and when the native tries to satisfy one side of the opposition, the other side gets quite put out. It seems like a no-win situation. The opposition creates a lot of energy.

Note, however, that the signs, Aries and Libra, are both cardinal yang signs, so they have a lot in common; they can relate to each other although the planets of the opposition want different things, which creates friction.

Double Squares, Double Friction

Enter the squares! Uranus in Cancer is another cardinal sign, but Cancer has a yin/negative polarity. It tends to be receptive and to act from emotion and intuition. Uranus disrupts the status quo wherever it appears, but it acts spasmodically—nothing will happen for a while, then, lightning! Cancer is concerned with nurturing and family and issues close to home. So, this native will tend to want things that challenge the status quo of things Cancerian.

The key mechanism of T-squares is that the opposition’s energy flows through the squares to the target planet (Uranus), which is the outlet of the opposition’s energy. So how does this look? Let’s take the squares one at a time.

Sun/Aries square Uranus/Cancer has a self-assured if impatient Sun energy, very clear and self-focused, in relationship with disruptive Uranus, which insists on independence and individuality, and probably stirs up trouble in family and home life. Uranus expresses emotionally and intuitively here, which is not its preference; it tends to be detached and rather mental. Uranus rules Aquarius, so it often is concerned with a universal consciousness and concern for social causes. This may manifest in conflicts between home/family and self, and it may express along with a Uranian rationale, but the main impulse is likely to be to assert the native’s individuality and refusal to follow any rules. Sun square Uranus is likely to go to any end to assert its belief that it can do anything it wants.

Uranus square Neptune adds all kinds of special effects. Both planets signify challenging structures, thoughts, and traditions, but Uranus challenges and attacks them where Neptune ignores them as illusions. In a square relationship, the planets’ more “negative” traits tends to express, so Neptune’s tendency to harbor illusions, possibly deceptions, and escapism meets Uranus’s blatant disruptiveness and insistence of its freedom at any cost. This native is likely to cause friction and disruption everywhere; s/he is driven to it. That said, it is likely that Neptune will lead Uranian energy into illusion, so that its rebellion may be illusion; the native may prefer to give lip service to challenging the status quo more than really sticking his/her neck out. This is even more likely given Uranus’s position in Cancer, which tends to be relatively risk-averse. Given that all planets are in cardinal signs, it is likely that the person is a leader of groups that challenge the status quo, and probably vehemently.

Uranus is plenty disruptive on its own, but here, it is the outlet for another level of tension due to the opposition. The native will probably struggle mightily against structures, especially home or family, as is likely to make abrupt changes in home situations.

Sun/Aries has a strong desire for independence, to make its own way, but Neptune/Libra has strong ideals about relationships with other people and a desire for togetherness. This incompatibility seeks release through Uranus (as if it needed any help or extra motivation!).

Resolving T-Squares

If I were counseling someone with this T-square, I’d focus on each planet’s energy and base my interaction with my client on which energy was presenting at the time. I’d help the native to identify each energy discretely, and exploring past life events may be useful in helping the native understand how the energies work. Once s/he understands each, s/he can start understanding how the energies work together.

The most important thing is to recognize and honor each of the energies. Many people disown one side of an opposition, so it can be life-changing to identify and accept each side of himself. That can release tremendous energy.

Understanding Uranus and its energies is also likely to be transformational. Native is likely to have burned a lot of bridges and will probably be lonely down deep, and to crave some kind of family or home; of course, this will depend on house placement and how Venus is situated in his chart.

Learning More

  • The T-square description in Astrotheme’s Composed Aspects page covers the basics pretty well.
  • Frank Clifford’s background article on T-squares is excellent, and it includes two examples.

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