For a moment, I’m going to be an astrologer, and tell you about composite charts, why they’re important, and what to look for when you read one.
I don’t know how into composites you already are, but before we start, I want to let you know that I don’t use Davison charts, because they are unnecessarily complicated. If you want to rely on the best source for composite basics, definitely read Robert Hand’s Planets in Composite.
Hand came up with the concept of composites back in the 1970s, during the height of the Pluto in Libra transit, when society really began to focus on relationships and what makes them work or not.
This is the wave Hand was riding at the time, and I’d hate to think that his contribution to communication theory will someday be ignored or forgotten. This comment is for those of you who think he is only an astrologer. No. He’s also a therapist who cares about his clients. These are excellent qualities to bring to astrological analysis, it seems to me.
Here’s the peculiarity about composites: they are made up of raw numbers, nothing more. They are the most theoretical chart you will create, since they are not based on one place, or one birth time, but on two places and two birth times (or more; although composites really do start to break down after three people’s information is logged). So what do composites mean, if they are not “about” something definite, but about a “relationship,” rather than two individual people? Well, that’s what we’re here to discuss: what composites mean and the basics of what to look for when reading one.
A frequent mistake people make when they first look at composites is to want the composite to somehow reveal information about both people as individuals. That is not what the composite is intended for, and so if the composite is giving you difficulty, look at the synastry instead, because that’s where information about the two people as individuals will be revealed. A composite is more subtle than synastry in that it requires you to learn how to synthesise the information you’re seeing. A composite sun in the 6th does not mean what sun in the 6th means for an individual, nor does it tell you that one person in the relationship (the man, since in Western tradition the sun symbolises male energy) is a labourer or a Marxist or something, but that’s not how this works.
The purpose of the composite is to tell you about how the two people function together, what their relationship means to them, and how their chemistry expresses itself. The composite, handled with delicacy, can tell you more about the mystery surrounding a relationship than anything else, including what the two are willing to tell you (since most people have limits on what they’re willing to reveal, even to me). A composite sun in the 8th, for example, is much more demanding than composite sun in the 3rd or 9th.
Depending on what you already know about astrology, you can begin to guess why, but if you’re feeling lost, any of the water houses (4, 8, 12) are harder for a relationship to express than are air houses or fire houses. Earth houses (2, 6, 10) can be, for most married people, the easiest energy to express, since most people want what earth houses symbolise: possessions, security, worldly success, etc. You know what I mean. Big screen TVs. 3 cars in the garage.
However, water houses are complicated, as befits water in general, so for a relationship chart to contain planets in water houses usually indicates to me that the two people have come together, depending on their maturity level and desire for self-analysis, to make changes in themselves and each other. Water houses are complex, so the changes will be felt rather than seen, for a long time, before they manifest. The composite will show you how the relationship works, how it functions, and what it’s “for.”
Two people rarely come together to have fun (although composite sun in the 5th would beg to differ). Most relationships that lead to life-long commitments (or that last a lifetime) get pretty serious, and there are deeper reasons the people stay together that transcend children, cars, commitments made in churches, or any of the obvious trappings of materialism and conservativism.
So when you first look at a composite, take a look at three or four basic things. The first things I check are the location of the sun, and the rising sign. This helps me establish why the relationship exists (the sun) and its structure, what will keep it together (the ascendent, sign, degree, and cusps).
Sometimes the sun is supported by the ascendent sign, and the ‘rulers’ of each are in aspect, a sign that there is a good chance the relationship has every chance of survival. Supportive influences make me think things like that (file this in the “magical thinking” category, and you’ll understand why composites speak to me).
Next take a look at some details, like, where is Venus? What sign is Venus in? Does Venus aspect Mars? Does Venus aspect the Moon? These are good signs, even if the aspects are tough. I don’t care. Any aspect is better than no aspect at all. Time and time again, charts reveal their wisdom to me, and experience confirms my suspicions, which hint that the malefics the ancients bemoaned are misunderstood.
But that’s another subject for another day. For today, let’s just make sure the basics of the composite are covered: Venus, Moon, Sun, all speaking to one another and preferably in hospitable houses. The houses these planets are located in will tell me a lot about the basic nature of the relationship, whether it’s going to last long-term or not.
Then you can start looking at the aspects, and here, just to give a glossy overview, the more oppositions you have (not squares, oppositions) the harder this relationship is going to be. That’s because two people’s energy is being synthesised in the composite, and the more oppositions you have, the greater the likelihood the two people really just don’t see eye-to-eye.
Squares are different, however; squares don’t lead to breakups in the way oppositions do. Squares lead to irritation and disagreements, but if you learn to value each other’s differences, you can stay together longer with most squares than you can with oppositions.
The next most important thing to look for is the location of Saturn. Saturn’s determined work ethic energy can keep a relationship together forever, even when everything else looks bleak. It can, sadly, keep people together when they are absolutely miserable. It represents what each person owes the other, and this could either be considered their karmic debt (which I happen to think you can see in the entire chart, not just Saturn or the Nodes) or their duty to one another in this lifetime. Saturn also represents how the two will work together (or not) to keep the relationship going. So Saturn’s location and aspects are very important as a window into the longevity and strength of the relationship.
So, to summarise: Sun, ascendent, Venus, Mars, Moon, Saturn. Those are your basics to look for. After that, the key to understanding composites is to think theoretically. Do not think literally. You cannot see each person in the marriage in a composite. If you think like that, you’ll never get this.
Think in terms of a Venn diagram or chemistry. It’s what the two people create together that you’ll see in the composite. You know how when they say the whole is greater than the sum of its parts? This is what the composite symbolises, the energy that is more than the individuals on their own.
Does a composite represent what happens when you lose your individuality and are subsumed by the needs of the relationship? Yes. I’m sorry to break this to you, but most relationships of maturity and depth will require you to make a fair amount of self-sacrifice (this is the theory behind why Saturn is exalted in Libra, because relationships are our ultimate teacher). The goal is for you to become more than you were, so that doesn’t seem like a bad trade. If you ever feel like you are becoming someone you don’t want to be, for god’s sake, get out. Life is way too short to put up with that nonsense. There are far too many starfish in the sea to live with the wrong person forever and ever.
If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to ask. This is my area of interest, and I know how complicated composites can be to interpret.