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What’s Missing?

For people just beginning in astrology, the challenge is typically reading what in the chart. There are so many factors to consider, so many planets, signs, aspects, elements and modes, that it can seem overwhelming. But sometimes to key to understanding a horoscope is not found in what’s in it. Sometimes it lies in what’s missing. That’s particularly important when we consider the modes or qualities.


We divide the signs of the zodiac into three qualities: Fixed, Mutable and Cardinal. Each one provides a necessary function. We need the Fixed signs to keep us grounded and help us establish and adhere to basic principles that will guide our life. We need the Mutable signs to give us flexibility and help us keep up with the changes in our lives and in our times. And we need the Cardinal signs to energize us and push us to become active participants in the life we lead. Most horoscopes have a mixture of these signs but every once in while you find a chart in which one of these qualities is seriously underrepresented.


An example of this is the horoscope of Gertrude Stein. (Click on Gertrude Stein to see the chart.) The chart shows a predominance of Fixed signs. Stein’s Sun and five of her planets are in Fixed. Mutable signs are also well represented. Her Moon, Mars, Ascendant and Midheaven are all in Mutable signs. Cardinal signs, on the other hand, are missing. Only Jupiter in this chart is in a Cardinal sign.


And yet, Stein became famous. She gained notoriety both as a writer and as an art collector and social maven. She also became a seminal force in the Paris avant-garde during the early Twentieth Century. How Stein did this reveals a great deal about how qualities work.


Stein was a brilliant woman. This was attested by no less that the illustrious William James who was her teacher at Radcliffe College. He pushed Stein to enter medical school. Stein spent four years at John Hopkins Medical School. What she learned was that medicine in the late 19th Century was a field dominated by men. In order to succeed she would have overcome serious obstacles. Moreover, she would need to attend to her personal appearance and wear a corset in order to fit into the preconceptions of her male instructors. Stein continued her studies until her ambivalence caused her to fail and important exam. They she walked away.


A person with a lot of Cardinal signs might have reacted differently to the challenges a medical career posed and they certainly wouldn’t have waited four years to make up their minds. But, with a predominance of Fixed and Mutable signs, Stein allowed herself to be carried along by pure momentum until her position at the school became completely untenable.


What happened next was that Gertrude Stein went to Paris. However, was this her idea? Essentially, she was accompanying her older brother, Leo (who had the Moon, Mercury and Venus in Cardinal signs). When Leo began buying paintings by Matisse and Cezanne. Gertrude joined in. Being a socially inclined Aquarian, she also got to know the artists and she began inviting them to gatherings at the apartment she shared with Leo. After a while, these gathering grew to include some of the greatest artists, writers and intellectuals of the era.


Stein never had to go out and actively promote her salons. What drew people like Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso and Ezra Pound to these events was the power of her Fixed sign personality. She had the Aquarians gift for making friends with interesting and distinctive people. That made her Saturday evening salons an engine for ideas and innovation.


Meanwhile, Stein wrote, but there is little evidence of Cardinal sign ambition in her literary career. She didn’t even attempt to published her first two novels. Her third was published privately when Stein was 35 and received little notice. The book that made her famous, “The Autobiography of Alice Toklas” wasn’t published until she was 59 and the recognition Stein achieved had much to do with way in which her many friends advocated for her.


Stein’s life is a good example of what happens when something is missing from the horoscope, but it is also an example of how that such deficiencies are overcome. Stein never seemed to worry about the fact that she lacked the goal-oriented ambition and energy of the Cardinal signs. She just focused on getting the most out of the Fixed and Mutable signs in her chart. Every horoscope provides us with a path to fulfillment. We just have to make good use of what's in the chart and refuse to limited by what’s missing.

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