The Good News About Friction


In astrology, a square is an aspect that describes the relationship between two planets at a 90-degree angle to one another… and it's considered to be one of the more challenging (or 'hard') aspects.

Two planets in square to each other are at odds, each approaching the circumstance of their meeting with distinctly different attitudes. If this meeting were seen as a type of battle, each squaring planet would fight for its expression in a manner consistent with its sign-placement. Based upon the relative comfort of each planet in its sign, one or the another might have a definite advantage… or, if not, they're left to duke it out, one style versus the other.

Yet, it would limit our understanding to suggest that squares are flatly bad situations, dooming us to dissatisfaction or irritability. The initial disagreement between two squaring planets, regarding how they might each simultaneously express their archetypal energies, actually forces them into a dialogue. And though the efforts to marry their expressions may well feel tense, at least they are flat out dealing with each other—rather than, say, altogether ignoring their tension and staying put in an unintegrated status-quo, the brewing conflict never actualizing into the open.

Though a square in one's natal chart indeed frames an internal clash between two parts of the self that, throughout the course of one's life, both seek their due respect, a wise astrologer would never wish away the squares. We may be taught that squares are 'hard', but they are also incredibly useful energy-generators, providing us a creative challenge that continuously pushes us to grow in order to overcome it. Two entities rubbing roughly against each other create a dynamic heat which can power our engines… that is, as long as we're not projecting one part outward onto someone or something else, then perpetuating external conflicts with that disowned piece.

The charts of our most celebrated and accomplished individuals are laden with these hard aspects, which served as internal drivers that propelled their accomplishments forward… while those supposedly ideal charts, full of planetary flow but absent of the tense challenges, often produce people who lack motivation. Without difficulties to conquer, we eke by in life just satisfactorily enough that we really don't have to try too hard. You get out what you put in.

In the sky right now, we're braving a monumental brawl between Uranus and Pluto, a granddaddy of squares that's forcing a once-in-a-generation reformation on the collective level, both productive and often quite distressing. (My latest writing about the Uranus-Pluto square can be found here.) Though the experienced consensus so far confirms an 'end-of-the-world' feeling, arising when two forceful evolutionary pressures bear down from different angles at the same time, we also must admit how badly we needed this climaxing of ongoing tensions.

Our creativity thrives when we're backed into a corner. Once we stop flinging our reactive anger outward at others, in resistance to accepting what has to be done… once we dry our tears of grieving the inevitable goodbyes… once we snap out of the fear-frozen cowering and muster the nerve… once we're in motion, in the act of creating inventive solutions to whatever longstanding problems have finally come to a head, it actually feels quite invigorating, exhilarating, stimulating. Planetary squares help fuel that.

Alongside this week's waxing toward the Sat Sep 29 full-moon activation of the Uranus-Pluto square (which I described in my last essay), we also have another square that's been forming: between Venus in Leo and Mars in Scorpio, exact early Thursday (Sep 27). Among squares, however, this one presents the heightened promise of creative—if not romantic and/or sexual—excitation.

Venus and Mars are the quintessential yin/yang match: a pair that complements each other well, with contrasting approaches to satisfying their needs, sure, but ultimately fitting together, receptive and projective, groove and prong, vessel and injection. Venus considers the interrelational temperature, plays to the other, using her magnetic charms to attract what she wants. Mars more directly puts his desires forward, inserts his will into the proceedings, taking what he wants rather than waiting for it to be given. In any relationship analysis, we look for a connection between Venus and Mars, their interaspect a symbol that both sides of this polarity are appropriately vibing with each other.

The stereotypical astro-trademark of a harmonious relationship is some positive flowing aspect (i.e., a trine, a sextile, a conjunction) between Venus and Mars, indicating the 'feminine' and 'masculine' polarities aren't in conflict. (Please note: 'feminine' and 'masculine' in this context do not equate neatly with our concepts of female and male gender, but are meant as synonyms for 'receptive' and 'projective'.) But upon further examination, we can understand that harmonious doesn't always equal passionate. Sometimes, in fact, when we get along too smoothly with one another, the coupling may lack a certain charge. Perhaps the disagreements are kept to a minimum, but then there's not a lot of impetus to grow in unfamiliar directions since everything's always so peachy-keen. Some folks are more content in a smoother interpersonal flow; some crave the sparks that come from contrast or even, yes, conflict.

A Venus-Mars square does create friction, without a doubt. Yet, it's the type of friction which can be fruitfully harnessed to produce heat… whether the kind that drives us to birth original ideas, in the effort to unite initially discordant currents into a synthesized whole, or that which draws us to unite ourselves with other individuals who, though distinctly different from us, possess an allure we struggle to resist because we know we'll gain something uniquely valuable from embracing it.

This is astrology that threatens to unfurl bickering or sparring—which then can quickly progress into the enkindling of (as I put it in another article) 'a naughty dose of, ahem, cathartic commingling'. In other words, opposites may likely be powerfully attracted to each other. And what at first seems like disagreement could in fact be a cover for this attraction.

This week's square pits pretty-and-proud Venus in Leo against dirty-and-dangerous Mars in Scorpio, both planets in signs that are fixed (or stubborn know-it-alls). Venus may seek to maintain her esteemed image, performing indignation or shock at anyone who insinuates a less-than-flattering observation into her autobiographically heroic narrative. But Mars is at his strongest in Scorpio and totally unafraid of transgressing the boundaries of appropriate appearance. Mars's willingness to mess with the preapproved storyline can easily rile Venus up… and, just as strongly, the excitement from this friction pulls them further towards each other.

As long as we can recognize this is what's going on, we can elicit the most productive—and potentially titillating—results from this aspect. If we get so caught up in it that we blind ourselves to the inextricable tie-in between antagonism and attraction, though, we're likelier to just become (or stay) frustrated.