Have you ever noticed how certain ideas just start popping up all over the place at once? I recently received an “Ask Kevin” question from Scott, asking my thoughts on how to interpret the end of a sign — in his case, his Ascendant at 29 Virgo. Within a few days of this, I came across spirited debate about “critical degrees” in the Professional Astrologer’s Facebook Forum. And then there’s the birth chart of the future King of England, with his Sun at 29°56’44” Cancer.
So what does it mean (if anything) when a planet or a point is at the very end of a sign? Scott’s question mentioned several popular theories, such as that a planet at the end of a sign is “tired” and has learned all it can learn. Of course, he also mentioned that he’d heard that the last degrees of a sign are where a planet or point “goes postal” and expresses that energy with great intensity. Many of the comments on the Facebook thread expressed the opinion that a planet at the end of a sign somehow “blends” the energies of the current sign with the energies of the next sign. (After reading that, I had to turn off my computer and go lie down for a bit until the headache went away.)
Still, it’s an excellent question and a topic worth exploring.
However, I want to preface it with a disclaimer: I’ll be doing a certain amount of speculation here. This is a topic I’ve thought about over the years, and I’ve got theories and opinions about it. What I don’t have, however, is any practical use for these ideas. These all fall under the heading of abstract distractions. They’re fun to think about, but I’d never bring any of these into a consultation with a client.
Since Scott’s question, more or less, had to do with angles and house cusps at the end of a sign, I’ll start with that, and then move onto the bigger question of planets at the end of signs.
How to Handle the Ascendant at 29 Degrees
The first thing to do if you come up with a chart where the Ascendant is at 29 degrees of a sign is to make absolutely sure you’ve got an accurate birth time and location. Actually, the same would hold true for a chart with the Ascendant at 0 degrees.
Obviously, there are charts with 29 degrees of a sign rising (Scott’s for one; mine for another). But when a slight error in timing could result in a very different chart, it’s always wise to check your work before you dive into the interpretation.
Now, as far as how a person experiences the Ascendant at 29 degrees, it’s no different than how a person experiences the Ascendant at any other degree, which is to say not at all.
The Ascendant is a mask; it’s how others see us, but it’s not how we see (or experience) ourselves. Yes, it does filter how we perceive the outside world, but it’s not something that we can easily notice or define.
If you work with certain classical techniques — specifically if you use whole sign houses for your charts, having the Ascendant at 29 degrees creates some interesting considerations. When working with whole sign houses, the house divisions line up with the signs, and the angles don’t define house cusps. The first house is the entire sign of the Ascendant. When the Ascendant is very late in a sign, it means that most of the first house is actually above the horizon, in what is traditionally the twelfth house.
This might be worth considering, except that from the context of whole sign houses, whether a house was above or below the horizon didn’t matter — that’s a conceit that only shows up in more modern approaches to astrology. Not only didn’t the ancients draw the chart as a wheel, but the whole reason they used whole sign houses was that it was too difficult to calculate specific degrees with reliable accuracy.
Having the Ascendant — or any house cusp, for that matter, at a late degree may increase the chances of having intercepted signs in the chart. But that, of course, depends on which house system you choose. You can’t look up in the sky and point to the cusp of the second house. The house cusps don’t actually exist; the sign boundaries, however, do.
Which brings us to the more complicated question of how to deal with a planet at the final degrees of a sign.
How to Handle a Planet at 29 Degrees
Let me first state emphatically that there is no “blending” between the signs. The signs do not exist as a spectrum where Aries gradually transforms into Taurus, and a planet at 29 degrees of Aries does not, in any way, embody any of the qualities of a planet in Taurus. I can only assume that this idea is one of the new concepts that emerged in the age of “modern” astrology in the 1960s and 1970s.
We’ll start by looking at the facts about planets at 29 degrees, and then start considering what, if anything, those facts mean in different contexts.
A planet at 29 degrees is getting ready to undergo a fundamental and dramatic change. When a planet changes signs, everything about the Essential Dignity of that planet changes in an instant. A planet can go from being in terrible shape to being exceptionally powerful, and, of course, vice versa. There’s only one exception to this, in fact: when Saturn moves from 29 Capricorn to 0 Aquarius, it doesn’t experience any significant change in Essential Dignity.
In the context of a horary, event, or predictive chart, the actions and outcome of the question depend on the aspects a planet makes before it changes signs. Planets at 29 degrees tend not to make more aspects: they’ve done all they came to do. How significant this is, however, depends on the planet. The faster-moving planet is the one that makes the aspect. It’s always important in a horary chart if the Moon is void of course (meaning it won’t make any more aspects to any planets in the chart before it changes signs). And it’s probably worth noticing when the Sun or Mercury is at a very late degree. But the slower the planet, the less important this becomes.
Planets in the last few degrees of any sign may have a bad reputation because either Mars or Saturn (the lesser and greater malefics, in traditional astrology) has dignity by Term. Whether this is the chicken or the egg is unknown, however.
The most that we can say, then, is that in the context of a horary chart, a planet at 29 degrees is unlikely to bring about any kind of desirable result. When the planet changes signs, there will be a fundamental shift in context that will render the original question moot.
But what about planets at 29 degrees in the context of a natal chart?
A very popular belief about planets in late degrees is that they indicate that we’ve worked with that particular energy in past lives, and we’re completing the lessons in this life. Planets in late degrees are often described as “karmic” or “fated.” While I find this idea to be of some interest, it has no practical value. Yes, personally, I do believe in karma, and in past lives, and in the evolution of the soul. But I also accept that none of that is any of my business. I can’t verify the truth of it, and more importantly, there’s nothing I could do with the information. Personally, I choose to focus on practical astrology, and for the most part, questions of karma, soul evolution, and past lives aren’t very practical.
As far as planets at 29 degrees “going postal,” I’ve not seen any evidence to support that. In my experience, if something’s going to blow up in the chart, it usually blows up at the Vertex.