In general, there are two schools of thought when it comes to luminaries as they may exist on the "cusp". For purposes of this entry I'll go along with the pedestrian flow and use the Sun sign in discussing them, along with my revelation about which seems to hold more true in practice.
I assume everyone landing on this article gets the concept of a cusp. It's not an astrological term after all but a bona-fide open entity in the world of linguistics and literature. If I Google the definition of "cusp", which I just did, the top result explains it as the period of transition between two states.
It's just so associated with astrology because, well, damn -- in astrology there are so many changes between "states". Planets cross the borders of houses and signs, and even aspects can have cusps.
People who talk and learn casually about astrology who are cusp-born typically know it. They are honed to learn this over time when, using their birth date, they come to realize that every astrological profile they set down to absorb differs on whether they are "in" one sign or the next.
It would certainly breed a sort of skepticism about astrology if nobody could tell you which g--damned sign you actually were. Though perhaps you should be tortured if you're taking anything from knowing your "Sun sign" anyway -- though I digress.
Then, such a person meets a schlub like me in a bar, someone trying in the most unimaginative and outdated of ways to procreate through drinking among random strangers with "What's your sign" pickup lines to anyone dumb enough to seat themselves partnerless in my proximity (we'll have to assume the person is a woman, but then, have I ever really disclosed my sexuality? This is 2020 people, get with it!), which then leads to a discussion of astrology way beyond what that person may have been expecting -- or wanted.
Assuming I don't get the turn-and-shoulder block at this point, or my prospect doesn't manage to send the secret "bartender I gotta creepo here'" signal, I can get down to the nitty gritty. In a rare moon, a fellow bar patron in this context is genuinely interested.
In most cases, I explain, you don't have to tell people you are born on the cusp of anything. You actually are one sign or the other, if we even agree the Sun sign means jack-widdly anyway. But yes, you have to determine what that "one thing or another" actually is by having a bona-fide birth chart done, based on the best birth time you have available.
The Two Schools
As I mentioned, there are two schools of thought among astrologers once the question is sorted out by a real chart calculation.
The first school says to you something like, as the Sun moves toward one sign and wanes from the other, it transfers the energy gradually, so you in fact could be factored by both signs while this occurs.
I like that idea the most because when you step back from the entirety of the zodiac, consider that a "sign" or a "house" is actually just a collection of degrees.
Any degree of a point on the chart should be defined by its distinction from the 359 other degrees around it. So, Aries is only Aries because it subtracts and adds the influence of the 11 other signs such that, in that circle, it has its own expressive energy. In short, Aries is Aries because it is Taurus, but since Taurus lacks some attribute of Aries while adding others, it can't really be Aries. Moving on, Aries is Gemini, except Gemini can't really be Aries because Gemini lacks, or adds, some attribute of Aries. And so on.
If the energy of a degree on the zodiac wheel exists because it is the sum of all energy it couldn't be among the other 359 degrees, which themselves exist in influence for the same reason, it only makes sense that the weight of a sign's influence evenly and poetically passes off in these incremental changes as it moves through the wheel. Hence, an Aries born on the cusp of Taurus might well appreciate that they have the weakest Aries qualities along with the strengthening Taurus ones, because that makes the most sense.
But, then there is the other school of thought -- and keep in mind that I have not yet revealed my own experience or preference in this question.
The other school looks at the beginning of each sign as a "reset" of the former influence. You simply cannot be an Aries if your Sun is at 1 degree Taurus. Or even zero dot half a degree. Once the Sun leaves the previous sign, the influences of that sign evaporate. You are left a weak child of the new sign's influences which in a way have not yet coalesced into the attributes and personality traits so commonly associated with it.
I hate that vision of how it works because it tosses out the symmetrical uniform beauty of zodiac degrees all existing as the total sum of what all the other degrees have and don't have. And, dammit, I am a systems person. Signs that mysteriously drop their influence at fixed points on the zodiac wheel then "magically" acquire a new one, is just too much a process to wrap my head around.
But (sigh) as much as I cringe to say it, over time, I've come to find more in truth with the latter school of thinking than the former.
The Reality is a Scream
Of course I have my usual twist on the why, which is that while I don't so much find a weak influence of the sign being transitioned into, I do consistently find that a planetary or astrological sign is a sign no more certainly that sign than when it is in the final degrees of it.
Absolutely, hands down, no foolin'.
A Leo personality is no greater a Leo personality than when the Sun (or, let's get real, Moon) is in the final degrees of Leo. A Sagittarian is no more expressive as a Sagittarian than when it is in the final degrees of Sagittarius.
I suppose if you wanted to look at this way, the early degrees of a sign seem to be tepid expressions of it. Then, as the degrees gain strength in that 30-mark window, they mature and take on more visible and absolute traits long associated with that sign, until finally they reach the end -- the 28/29 degree mark -- where they are fully developed and, morbidly facing their demise as they prepare to transition into the next sign, begin to scream loudest. When you think about it, ain't that how people behave?
If we wanted to "prove" astrology and needed a dynamic to rely on, we could start with this concept, because in my experience, it is that reliable. But assuming my experience is correct, why do cusp people believe they are blended personalities?
We're all just speculating here but I'll offer up that at the most fundamental level, for the very reasons I banged out above, it's just easier to believe that blending is a real thing. I sure as hell wanted to believe that's how things work.
As well, there is confirmation bias at an astrological level. You see, the location of the Sun at birth effectively places the location of Mercury and Venus. These planets will either exist in the sign just before, in the same, or just after, whatever the Sun is in. These two planets are relatively speaking very personal (though, nowhere near as much as the Moon or rising sign), and go a long way to developing a certain personality. A good body of people, let's just say half, will have their Mercury or Venus in the preceding sign (Aries if it is someone born on the Aries/Taurus cusp, but on fine analysis of the chart shows they are Taurus), so will have very key Aries qualities to their personalities. Someone with the Sun at 29 degrees of Aries but with a Taurus Mercury could be forgiven for thinking themselves genuinely blended with Taurus stuff due to the cusp.
And then of course, there is the rest of the chart. Most births occur in the morning, just aftersunrise in fact. This means people of a given Sun sign will have rising signs that are next in line of it. So, yes, for sure, a Cancer Sun sign person is very likely to have a Leo rising sign (statistically speaking only) which would lead anyone born on the end cusp of Cancer to logically conclude they are simply blending their Cancer farts with Leo farts. And as well of course, there are other more random placements such as the Moon or other aspects, that could similarly fuel the belief.
Leave your questions as comments for a response here or on the YouTube channel (which I'll beg you to subscribe to).
Uranus was visible to the naked eye this weekend, and might still be depending on where you are. I try to avoid mixing astronomy and astrology topics when talking about the latter; I've noticed over the years it just irks the scientific community -- astronomers, physicists (in particular Brian Greene who once snarked against it on Twitter). However there is a notable reason to bring it up nonetheless.
It's okay Mr. Greene, you're still Mr. Awesome in my book - but I am hurt!
...after all, we're all dabbling in borderline metaphysics.
In most of the reporting for this event you'll notice that articles mention it being in Aries. That's true from an astronomical perspective where the observable sky is mapped in part by taking advantage of the placement of constellations. "Uranus is in Aries" because looking at the sky it's currently located in the constellation of Aries.
But astrologically, it's in Taurus.
Again it's the whole Sidereal versus Tropical thing. You can read the Wiki for the details on how they differ as systems, but it's a good time to clarify for sake of the astrology discussed at this blog and indeed most of Westernized astrological practice, that it's Tropical that counts.
The positioning of planets in the constellations used to match up while the earliest astrological concepts were being sorted out. But due to centuries of drift -- the movement of constellations from our Earthly perspective -- they don't now. For purposes of influence, this backdrop of the literal stars is unimportant. While the stars have moved on, the working dynamics have not.
To use an analogy, say that a person learns to become a plumber in a building called "The Plumber Building". So everyone agrees to call the guy a "plumber" -- and we of course need to pretend that the title did not previously exist.
Later, the "Plumber Building" burns down or is razed (or magically drifts 20-some-odd degrees to the empty lot next door) and a new building goes up in its place called the "Florist Building".
The plumber does not magically become a florist in the process. The plumber learned the tradecraft necessary to be a plumber so that's what he does and that's what he is. The building he happened to learn and apprentice in just happened to be an address at the place and time that he did.
You'll see this topic come up from time to time. Especially during the approximate two-or-so-year pop news cycle where the headlines like "You Have Your Birth Sign Wrong" crop up.
Uranus in Taurus
I didn't mean to bleed into an analytical point in raising this issue, but as long as we're discussing the placement of Uranus, I thought it worth mentioning how said placement fits in today's world of polarized cultures and politics.
Uranus is the up-ender, sometimes criminal (in the name of freedom and independence -- not like in the name of impulsive murder like Mars or maybe Pluto).
In Taurus, where it's been lingering now for quite some time, and which it squares as ruler of Aquarius by rights, suggests one reason we as an international species are feeling the extremes between conservatism and liberal ideals.
Uranus is a slow-mover so it is near generational in its scope. People all over the world are feeling the vibe of ideological upset. People with a Moon or rising sign in aspect to this conjunction might even become notable personalities in the struggle.
It's as if the "revolution" moved into the house of long standing values to turn that house as much on its side as Uranus itself rotates (yeah, Uranus physically rotates side to side).
The combination of this planet with that sign, in this astrologer's view, does not force a take of sides. It's not about "liberals" owning the virtue to knock out the evil status quo, or about the "conservatives" virtuously exterminating the radicalism that undercuts their comfortable patch. It isn't hippies versus gun nuts although these are perhaps the most convenient expressory conduits (at least among us Americans) people may find to argue through.
Rather, this era is forcing an examination of something far more fundamental, which would be the spiritual prioritization of the indidvidual over longstanding material values that have been comfortably adopted for a period just shy of a century or so.
In my view, two of the most underrated extremes in astrology come from the accented relationship between Aquarius and Taurus because one insists on its shaking of the Earth (Aquarius/Uranus), while the other is Earth (Taurus/Venus). Between them, dogma doth tend to find a perverse home.
Like Sun Sign Astrology, Birth Times are Too Convenient.
Any astrologer worth their salt will try to wrangle a birth time out of you. Rightfully from a motivational standpoint, too. Whatever I am about to poo-poo against regarding the role of birth times in astrological calculations, using them as a centerpoint has never resulted in anything ever totally sucking when it comes to building someone's astrological profile.
Something at scale works when a chart is calculated around the time of birth, which is lucky considering birth is for all human material purposes, a symbolic start to life. Let's agree that it's what probably attracted astrologers to it in the first place. The physical birth is convenient, dramatic, and, well, you certainly don't have a person to analyze until one can be held in another person's hands. It kind of works at multiple levels.
Birth times give classical psychologically-centerd astrological practices a solid handle, but establishing one is frought with the potential for error, as is, as you may be forgiven to wonder, any agreement on the very definition for the start of life -- the thing that a birth chart is supposed to well reflect in said analysis.
Over the decades I have come to care less and less for a concrete declaration of the birth time. Taking my very own self as an example, I am all too aware of how easy it is for bad birth times to circulate as quickly as fake news by the supposed authorities. Doctors and nurses might as well be the CNN and FOX News of political commentary.
It's Like Day and Night
I am the perfect example.
I was "born" at 8:30 AM June 5, 1966. This time is the clear recounting of my mother who gave the blow by blow of the event on that glorious (cough) morning. But, if you had listened to the stupid-head doctors and nurses who stamped the head of my incubator with a birth card, I was born at 8:30 PM.
Here's the very card, complete with a pitch for me to purchase Pet Milk, (welcome to your new earthly capitalist culture you lucky bastard!).
Mom said day, docs wrote night. It's a contradiction. Now go buy some Pet Milk!
You can click on the picture to really see the contradiction I've highlighted.
Let's hope they at least noted which meds I required accurately between themselves, although it might explain a lot of things about myself if not.
Thus the implication for my own astrology chart is a whopping 180 degrees depending on who I believe. I am either the eccentric non-affiliating crank which I conclude myself to be (11th House Sun), or the football-loving hedonistic lover of followers and tribal inclusion the PM version of chart renders (5th House Sun).
I will say that while it was the lifetime corroboration by other relatives who remember, the personality outcome alone rather settles it. The person who drew up that Pet Milk card was either up too late or just plain hoped that a change of record might amount to a last-ditch effort to avoid me turning into the Uranian 11th house weirdo I would go on to be.
But let's say that it's the attending medical staff who were right and my mother and everyone else who were somehow wrong. In interpreting my own chart, which could be the chart of any subject for any astrologer, the amount of contorting it would take to make the noted energies fit my very learned understanding of the adjectives, would be astronomical. Astrologically speaking my red and blues would look different than any other astrologer's red and blues.
Which unfortunately is an outcome that our obsession with birth times as astrologers rather leaves us with.
Isn't Everyone's Birth Time the Time of the Big Bang Anyway?
Human error not withstanding, maybe it doesn't even matter. And again, I throw myself out as the perfect example.
I was a premature birth by approximately 2 months. I was a serious medical case. My very survival was so questionable that the traditional birth announcement in any of the local newspapers was skipped out of what I assume was sensitivity (I looked for it once and after scouring all the editions of the day using one of those microfilm machines at the local library, nada - not on the day, week, or month after).
And in lore, yes, I in fact did die before the next day. Twice. Granted we are talking about the same docs who believed I was born at night who reported this grim news to my mother the next morning ("Janet, we managed to save him!" was mom's remembered quote), or, the word of my mother, who on her own tended to be a sort of exaggerationist throughout her life, what with her Sagittarius Moon and all. But even with that accounted for, then, I probably at least died once. And okay, if not at all physically, look, there's a birth card stuck to my cradle imploring me to buy Pet Milk, so if nothing else, I probably died at least a little on the inside.
The question begged by the apparent battle I waged against the universe on whether to exist or not, and which I clearly lost -- fucking universe -- is what actually counts as "birth" anyway? Was I born the first time that I was born, or was it one of the two other times that I found life?
And I suppose to avoid driving my readers crazy, no, you don't even need the weird story of my particular birth to have long established this question in your own noggin'. If you're a thinker of any sort at all, this question of what constitutes a birth should have bothered you at the outset.
Astrologers you will find upon the Googling or Quora of it generally take astrological birth to begin at the time of the first breath. But you don't have to roam far to find those who figure it's the time that the head crowns, or, believe it or not in a strange application of horary astrology, whatever time everyone first agrees on (so my errant doctor really could have called the shot if I bought into that).
But whatever basis an astrologer chooses to settle on, it's all really just folly anyway right? Remember, we don't undertand the mechanics of astrology so we can't say for sure what correlates the position of the planets to the creation of a unique personality. As I said at the beginning of this entry, we only know that the given birth time works well enough.
The truth is that there may not even be a uniform application of astrological traits confined to any single event at all. Rather, they may soft-sink over a period of a few minutes or hours or maybe even days (though in a second I'll tell you why I personally dismiss days).
And some astrologers feel we are looking at it wrong to being with: It's the astrology that sparks the push from the womb in the first place, jarring mommy's inner guts to act, so the influences aren't there to "bind to". The birth itself is the byproduct that they have kicked in already. Let that one sink in for a minute. It's a neat idea until you consider Cesareans.
One thing that I personally can say for sure, the human/astrology merge occurs at a pace no faster than the motion of the Moon through its degrees. I say this because I believe the Moon sign to be so potent -- the most important unique personality indicator for anyone -- that any contradiction of the observed personality between the position of the Moon and that which would be established by a recorded birth time, would be too obvious in cases where a cusp is crossed or in consideration of aspects to other planets.
Very roughly speaking the Moon crosses a single sign (30 degrees) every 2 days or 48 hours. About a half a degree a minute but not quite, and not quite always 2 days. There is some serious variance here buddy.
Astrologers themselves wouldn't believe in astrology if that gap were very wide over the observable history of the craft since patterns in the personalities most of us have come to agree on wouldn't be visible. So, as I see it, we can pretty much bet that however the mechanics work, the "influences of the stars" occur readily within 1 or 2 hours of whichever marker you choose. And this means that the "birth time", which encompasses that complex series of events, fits, most of the time.
Let's Just Deal With It
But finally, let's just say that the whole question introduces too much speculation for anyone to be comfortable with. In your possible individual case, maybe you're even one of those people born through events and circumstances too traumatic for anecdotal or formal birth time recording. You don't get served your plate of astrology. Or, if you think it's all bunk, this hazy foundation should be the nail in the advocate's coffin.
Not quite. As I said early on, being one of those astrologers bothered so much by the ambiguity, I've weaned off insisting knowledge of the birth time for meaningful analysis. How do I and so many other astrologers who have come to feel the same way get away with it? It's easy, we rely on astrology. Duuuuh.
In my variant case, I center the Moon as the most important influence. Knowledge of its precise location can be off at least far more liberally for general personality analysis, though if it's off too much, I'm going to take a hand to rectification and suggest a different time to my subject. Others might try the same or use the same trick using the rising sign (which moves through entire signs in only two hours), but in my world the Moon is even more important than the rising sign and far more tangible. If someone put a gun to your head and demanded the astrology from you, you'll be able to spew enough of it out to save your life.
And then there is the ever finer solution of incorporating synastry. Normally you want birth times when comparing the charts between people every bit as much as you might want them for the individual. But the interaction of individual birth charts creates such unique patterns of influences you don't need that precision. What might be lost in clarity by not having a birth time is well made up for by the careful consideration of how one's general planets (and most crucially that Moon!) mesh with those of their parents, teachers, colleagues, supervisors, lovers, children, and so on and so on.
As an example, a dominant father whose Mars conjoins the soft-spoken Virgo Moon of his daughter is going to create a daughter over the period of developmental relevance who is far more energized and aggressive (in a Virgo Moon sort of way to be sure) than the same woman who lacks that persistent influence in her life. To have spotted this dynamic, you don't need anyone's precise time.
Astrologers can, and perhaps should, I can see many argue, rely on those sorts of analytical inputs over one's birth time and hence birth chart anyway.
None of this is to say that by dismissing the importance of an accurate birth time or tossing out the birth chart altogether, something huge and signficant isn't being lost in the process. Indeed, the richest astrological interpretations actually are. What I'm telling you is that an accurate birth time is mostly inaccurately believed of anyone, kind of irrelevant (to within 2 hours anyway) until we know why astrology works; and, perhaps eclipsed by the forces of other astrological perspectives such as those existing in our day to day relationships with others.
You can still have great if not greater astrology without it.
Two of my biggest passions in life are blogging and astrology. At long, long, long last I am able to marry these interests into a single presentation and bring the online world to my perspective and footnotes on real astrology.