Posted by: Donna Cunningham | March 5, 2010

How to Survive a Pisces Dad—and How I Survived Mine

Donna says: Today is the birthday of my late father, Walter Woodrow Wilson Cunningham. This is a 2-part post. Part 1 is an excerpt from Mary English’s book, How to Survive a Pisces, and Part 2 is about the strangest astrology chart I’ve ever seen. It’s the chart of my father, and it consists of only two elements, water and air—and only 4 signs—Aquarius, Pisces, Gemini, and Cancer. 

Part 1:  How to Survive your Pisces Dad, (c)2009 by guest blogger, Mary L. English. (Reprinted by permission of the publisher, O-Books)

A Pisces Dad is a rare, strange and peculiar being. On the one hand they can be practical, organised, good at sensing and knowing your needs, and on the other they can be (in extreme cases) a drunk, lost-case, addict or general down-and-out.

How to Survive a Pisces, by Mary EnglishIn all cases your Pisces Dad will want to parent you in the best way, so make the job easier by telling them what you like and what your needs are. Because Pisces (as a general rule) are so intuitive, we can make the mistake of assuming they automatically know what our needs and wants are. ‘Dad just knew I wanted to join the cricket team’ doesn’t necessarily mean he will also know what you want to do about your life, your job or your car. Check back and find out their Asc, Sun and Moon signs and make a guess at the type of Pisces Dad you have.

Are they a Firey Dad, up at dawn, rushing off to greet the day, involved in multiple projects, enthusiastic about life? Or are they an Airy Dad debating late into the night, wanting to discuss, read poetry, build castles in the air, bounce ideas around? Or are they a slower, more practical Earthy Dad, fixing the car, digging the garden, lazing on a hot day, making fires on a cold day?

Or a Watery Dad telling you how they feel about things, or looking hurt when the present they have bought you tens of years ago ends up in the re-cycling box. Worrying about what they think someone thinks about you, fretting that you might not manage in the real world (that’s a case of projection there), lending you money because they think it will ‘solve the problem’.

Determine the element your Dad is operating under, then range your needs and desires so they can understand them better. For instance, a Watery Dad won’t be concerned about your grades at school but will fret if you tell him someone doesn’t like you.

A Watery Dad will want you to share things with him by hugging or close contact, so don’t ask for money stood on the other side of the room, get near, hug, snuggle, then make your polite request. Taking into account that you’ll be rumbled very easily if you’re trying to pull a fast one, especially if they’ve got planets in Scorpio. It’s almost as if they have an internal radar….

A Firey Dad needs to be doing things with you, climbing mountains, fishing, jogging, travelling into weird and wonderful foreign places. So if you have a problem or something to share with them, do it when you’re both actively engaged in something, even if it’s just washing-up.

An Earthy Pisces Dad will want you to voice the practical, down-to-earth aspects of your desires, something they can buy or teach or lend or give to you. They will respond when you lower your voice, move slowly and match your breathing with theirs.

An Airey Dad will discuss, chat, think, voice, sing even and will understand you better if you write down exactly what you want, bullet points, reminder notes, lovely long letters or phone calls. You could be standing on the other side of the room, but you do need to make eye contact and make what you’re saying interesting and fluid.

Note:  How to Survive a Pisces by Mary L. English DSH is now available on Amazon ….and is published by O-Books Find out more about Mary and her work here:  Astrologer email:

Part 2:  Surviving my own Pisces Dad, by Donna Cunningham

 As noted above, my father’s chart is highly concentrated in 4 signs—2 air signs, Aquarius and Gemini, and two water signs, Pisces and Cancer.  His Sun, Mercury, Venus, Chiron, and the North Node are all in Pisces, and Jupiter and Uranus are conjunct in Aquarius within 15’ of each other, in the Gauquelin sector on the 9th house side of the Midheaven.

He was an odd bird numerologically as well.  He wrote his name with giant, sweeping Ws, proudly named Walter Woodrow Wilson Cunningham.  Since N, E, and W are the letters designated 5s, he had 9 5s in his name and was born on the 5th.  A very 5ish individual, and 5s are plenty quirky and changeable. Here’s the chart:

How quirky was he? I can show you better than I can tell you.  Here’s “Sawdust in the Popcorn,” a story I wrote about my Dad, a guy with no fire or earth in his chart, about a boat he built in our living room one winter, and about my relationship with him:  fisherman.

I’m fairly 5ish myself, born on the 5th of July and with 6 5s in my name. When I wrote that story, I gave it to a co-worker whose only comment was, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

How did I survive him?  With lots and lots of therapy, of every ilk imaginable.



  1. When ever I read people’s posts about their parents, it makes me appreciate mine even more. I don’t have the exact birth times of my parents, so can’t do accurate charts. I had a Scorpio Dad with a Cancer Moon , and have a Capricorn Mom with a Scorpio Moon.

    From the comment about the Scorpio Radar I can guess that is why my parents knew what I was up to before I even got home. Good thing I was a good kid and didn’t get into much.

    My husband has a lot of Scorpio and a Pisces Moon and at times I think he is reading my mind as he knows what I am up to also! Do you think I made that choice on purpose? 🙂

    Would love to hear more about your Father as water and air only does sound like quite a combination.

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Susie. You’re right–you couldn’t get anything past parents like yours, plenty of perspicacity! Oh, there are plenty more stories about my dad. He played the ukelale and sang old songs from the 1930s. And I’ve never enjoyed fish from the market, because we always had fresh fish that he caught, skinned, and fried in corn meal. Very Piscean. Donna

  2. A very clustered chart for your Dad Donna, and what a wonderful account of your Dad and his boat…if that wasn’t a Pisces Dad story, I don’t know what is…thank you for sharing

  3. Lovely story Donna. Really “felt” you and your Dad. Portrayed your Mom well too. Despite the “quirkiness” your Dad seemed quite loveable. The drinking would have bothered me too. At least it didn’t seem to lead to violence, as in my parents. My Dad is a Gemini/leo moon, 95 years old now, no earth planets and was married to a Cancer/cap moon Mom (like myself)- they loved each other but had really tough pluto power struggles and personal issues. Being Irish…lots of liquor brought out the worst. They divorced after a lifetime of struggling against each other and 5 kids. My first love was a pisces man with aquarius moon – quirky, handsome and a great sense of humor, but on his own planet. So I get it. Thanks for sharing xx

    • Thanks, Kim. Oh, my family had its problems and my Dad was the cause of lots of them. Bunches of alcoholics, but I just wanted to share a more positive side today on his birthday. Donna

  4. I didn’t have a Pisces dad, but a friend of mine did. He was career military and according to her, as far as she could remember, her dad just wanted to go bowling, watch TV and quietly get drunk at night, and be left alone.
    She said she was kind of afraid of him.

  5. Donna,
    Your father sounds like a true romantic. Who would think to build a boat in the living room. And he looks absolutely gorgeous in that photo. Could have been an Abercrombie and Fitch model. Or maybe an actor. Loved your story!

    • Thanks, Susannah, yes he was a romantic. And the boat was good as gold–we used it for years. Donna

      • He loved you and your mom and your siblings so much, that is clear. He was sensitive, maybe too much so for this world, and that is why he drank? He really does sound like someone you’d read about in a novel or watch in movie. Of course, that novel, that movie was your life. And I’m sure it had downsides. But I see the bubbles, the sweetness, the good. He did seem like a good man from your description. I hope your mom did remember to see it too, although I can understand her problem with all the sawdust, so to speak. 🙂

  6. I also had a Pisces dad who was distant and not very engaging, either at the office, on the golf course or reading leaving me at the mercy of my mother, another unsatisfied wife …but I am the one with all planets in 4 houses…beginning with Uranus in Gemini, Saturn, Mercury, Sun and Venus conjunct in early Cancer; Pluto in early Leo, Mars conjunct Jupiter in late Leo, and Neptune and Moon in Libra. (Chiron in Virgo) And all fitting in 128 degrees of the Chart, running from 10 degree Gemini to 18 degrees Libra moon…Only one word to describe the experience of these energies:INTENSE.

    • It does sound intense, Kalika. Have you read the series of three articles on stelliums published on Skywriter about 10 days ago? It sounds like you fit there. Donna

      • Donna,Thanks for the tip on the articles, I’m new to your site and hadn’t seen them before.
        My stellium in Cancer begins with 27 degrees Gemini MH, Saturn at 1 degree, Mercury at 5, Sun at 7 and Venus at 8 degrees Cancer. All square 27 deg Virgo rising with Neptune conjunct at 1 degree Libra. (Birthday June 29, 1944, 12:15 p.m. Brooklyn New York) People that have seen the chart and met me want to know why I am not famous. I basically shun the spotlight and feel that when Life, who made me for Her Purposes, wants me in the public eye, it will happen in due course and any other attitude becomes an ego trip making me the do-er…My freedom rests on letting be and letting what’s mine come to me. When there is an impulse to move, I do so…and have been living a nomadic existence for the last 30+ years, all over the planet, with an emphasis on India (cumulative 8+ years over 15 trips) and Australia, where I have traveled and lived for the last 20 years.
        With Pluto now directly opposite Mercury there are thoughts of moving again, even though I have been in my present abode for less than a year, of taking to the road and living out of my van and cutting the cord with conventional house bound existence. With Sagg IC there is a sense of feeling wholly alive and alert only when on the move, when everything is new all the time.
        Thoughts? Any insight or feedback greatly appreciated…Also, would be happy to send you via email some writings I am preparing to send to my email address book and thinking about posting a blog, which allows me to share my point of view without sacrficing my anonymity and privacy. I have learned to love my solitude….Kalika

  7. Hi Donna – I really enjoyed your story about your dad and his boat, and the obvious love the two of you shared – it kind of reminded me of the relationship between Francie and her dad, Johnny, in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” (one of my all-time favorite books). I guess it must be bittersweet having a special bond with someone so magical, yet so prone to self-destruction. It sounds like he encouraged you though, which was a good thing, else maybe you wouldn’t have found the confidence to share your own gifts with the world.

    My dad (Ascendant/Sun/Venus/Saturn conjunct in Scorpio) was far too Saturnian to ever give his Neptunian dreams a voice, although like your dad, he did have his Moon in Gemini, and boy, could he tell a great story. Ironically, one of his best stories was about his service in the Navy, when the large ship he was on was struck by a passing vessel and quickly sank (sort of a metaphor for his relationship with Neptune). And with all his Scorpio planets square Neptune, he also found solace in drink.

    • Quite the Neptunian story, LB. I guess all Dads have stories, don’t they? Donna

      • Maybe so, Donna. But not all dads are blessed with story-telling daughters able to immortalize them through their writing. What a nice way to remember your dad on his birthday.

  8. Thank you for sharing your story, Donna. Very bittersweet and poignant.

    I too was fortunate in my parents and even though we all worked very, very hard growing up on a small farm, it did make for a good childhood.

    My dad – Cancer Sun conjunct Pluto & trine Uranus in Pisces. My mother was a Libra Sun, Pisces moon. We had no birth times for either of them.


    p.s. Your family dynamics must have been soooo much fun . . .

  9. I love your Fisherman story Donna. It evokes the atmosphere and your feelings at the time so beautifully.
    My father is Pisces although I no longer have any contact with him due mostly to his drinking which l was terrified of as a child. Yep – been there and done that and bought the therapy tee-shirt!

    • Thank you for adding your story, Lua. You are clearly a member of the Child of a Pisces Parent club! Donna

  10. I forwarded this to my sons, what with my Pisces spouse, I thought they needed to read it.

    At least your Dad finished things ! I was holding my breathe and hoping he would when reading the story.

    Mr B is a Scorpio Rising, Cancer Moon, watery soul, but with Mercury in Retrograde (and yes he was given to the wrong Mother at first) well he just does get things wrong.

    Today’s disappointment ?? Those wax bullets for his historic cap and ball pistol don’t work. Or, more likely, he didn’t read the Instructions.

    I’m sure you understand though ! 🙂

  11. Hi Donna, sooo loved your post! I too have a pisces dad (sun, mercury and n.node) and a very earthy one (the rest mainly in virgo and saturn) – he too was an alcoholic (too sensitive to cope with his extremely plutonian mum) and extremely down to earth and helpful hardworking for each and everyone. farming and diy were his life, he died of a herat attack at sixty while working, never a day ill in his life.
    My mum is a pisces too (0 degrees, but mainly auarian otherwise. she is severly depressed). I have 4 aries sun, moon, venus and mercury in the 12th house in position to neptune in 6 and square saturn in 10., my son is pisces too, and a strong plutonian. that plutonian and pisces theme really runs through my family, my nephew has 5 planet in scorpio in 5 (premature birth with birth defect). My sister used to be the only coping (normal) one with all virgo stuff. Works herself to death….
    I really wonder sometimes if astrological signs always run as themes so strongly in families. (And if we choose our friends accordingly)
    Anyway, I find most of your postings highly interesting, but this was really special….

    • Glad you liked it, Annette. And yes, astrological themes run through families–I even believe that families have a ruling planet, the major theme in all their charts and their life patterns. For me, Uranus is the ruler of my family. Donna

  12. My dad is also a Pisces and has (most likely) a Cancer moon and I’ve never been sure where the disconnect is. I am air and fire with a singleton in water so maybe my watery parents and I just aren’t on the same page (Mom is Scorpio sun plus Cancer rising & moon). But your post made me curious so I looked at the chart for my father and the tough thing about us is his Pluto-Mars opposition falls on top of my moon-Venus opposition while my Pluto-Mars square falls on his Chiron-Neptune-Saturn square…

    If it were only that he were a Pisces I think things might be much easier. I really love Pisces as a sign and my dad has always been a conundrum to me as he is the most un-Piscean Pisces I’ve even met. Not watery at all. I think his singleton in earth makes him over-compensate by being endlessly practical…

    • Hi, Nikki, What’s interesting is that aspects do run in families–your Mars-Pluto square, his Mars-Pluto opposition–but the aspects aren’t compatible here, and so you may set each other off in some unpleasant ways. People with oppositions like his tend to project their undesirable qualities on others…”look what you made me do.” Here he could be projecting his undesirable Mars or Pluto qualities onto you, since you have a Mars-Pluto aspect yourself. Donna

      • Definitely, Donna! I looked and my brother has the trine. My mom doesn’t have it but she does have Pluto square Scorpio sun which is almost the same. Interesting astrological traits that run in families.

  13. That was lovely, DC, thanks for sharing it.

    And he was right: you became a healer, a teacher and astrological royalty.

    • Thanks, Neeti, it was nice to share it with you. Donna

  14. Love the story! Funny thing, your Dad is 11days younger than our pisces dad. I agree, it’s been quite the adventure.

    • Really? So does he have the same emphasis on water and air? Donna

  15. Quote “There was this way Dad had of looking at her, like he expected her to make it all better. She never knew what to do for him.”

    I know exactly what you mean. My dad was fun to grow up with, when he wasn’t raging against the injustices of the world. All my cousins thought he was a cool dad.

    He always asked me for my advice, back then as a kid it made me feel special, now as an adult, it shows me that, here was a man who did not know himself, and generally found himself in a bottle.

    This man also knew how to keep a grudge, how to manipulate and use emotional blackmail and keep a secret, especially about me being adopted.

    I have not spoken to him in some years, 5 I think. Ps. i”m a leo with cancer rising and a saggitarius moon and the kicker is i have Pisces midheaven, and hence have know idea what i want as a career. I tend to fall into jobs that suit me at the time.

    • Oh, boy, do you understand! Maybe my Dad was your birth father? Since the Midheaven is one indicator of the father (or at least the dominant parent), it makes sense that yours was Pisces. Donna

    • Mona, that is interesting that you said you don’t know what to do as a career. I never did either. I have Cancer rising, but Cancer Sun, also the Sag Moon, and the Pisces Midheaven.

      I always did secretarial work because I did like it, and I also took whatever job came along but also felt like I just fell into them. The Sag moon influence?

      I have always wondered why everyone else seemed to figure out what they wanted to do with their life as far as careers go, and I never knew. So I guess now it might be that Neptune influence at the Midheaven?

      This was off the Pisces Dad topic, so I hope it is ok.

  16. I loved the story about the boat.. thanks for sharing it with us.

  17. Dear Donna,

    Thank you for your validation. That was a very lovely story of your childhood.

    By the way please keep up the good works.

    For your information both my parents are Pisceans. After my parents divorced; i haven’t spoken to my mum since. I’ve tried to track her down, but it seems she doesn’t want to talk to me. This I understand, she has had a new life for a long time, some wounds are best left to scab over and not re-opend to fester.

    Ps To Susie
    Also to Susie I do believe that our Saggie Moons have a lot to do with the floating life style, i.e. just falling into things, like relationships, friends, hobbies, addictions that suddenly spring up and just as suddenly disappear especially if neptune is very close by mine is 3 degs away.

    I’ve given up eating tin tuna on crackers with cheddar chesse, another favourite one was white toast with chesse and american mustard, bread with butter and honey, and going back to my teenagehood it was egg flip with nutmeg, a green cabbage leaf, a stick of carrot and a ripe tomatoe for wait for it breakfast at 6 in the morning.

  18. We seem to come from the same place…
    Please accept my apology for the long, rambling, and melodramatic posting I left on the “Earth” blog…I am mortified by my foolish confessional and won’t post again until I can get a handle on these “once in a lifetime” transits hitting me all at once. I always thought of myself as a tough Double Capricorn but lately find myself undone–with Pluto conjunct my 12th Sun/Chiron –square my Libra 59 yr. Saturn return on a Cardinal Cross, well…YIKES!
    Mea Culpa, B.

    • Don’t be mortified, Berta, I can’t even imagine a Pluto conjunction to the Sun in Capricorn in the 12th,. much less with Chiron in the picture…surely you have already had quite ENOUGH!!! Donna

      • Thanks so much. Your kindness helps. Be well.

  19. I hadnt seen this article before but with my pisces dad, it surely has been a test as my moon is in 12th and he is soooo logically trapped he refuses to give any credibility to what he refers too as the stupidness of emotions and of course females who seem to allow those illogical things to rule them. Needless to say i have sun in cancer….this FINALLY helps me make sense of it all, THANK YOU 🙂

  20. Goodness, this was fascinating! Mine is one as well, with a lot of Air (Gemini moon for example) which makes so much sense now. Literally, he isthe most gossipy and indiscreet person I know, to such an extent that people watch their mouths when he is around. Which then means he drinks more because he is pissed off that nobody will talk to him. The sad part is that he never learns to keep his mouth shut. :-/ Never his fault, of course!

    • Yes, Gemini Moons–and Gemini Risings–can be compulsive talkers. I used to have to ride herd on them when they came for chart consultations, otherwise they’d never shut up long enough for me to do the consultation properly. Donna

  21. Thank ypu this helps me understand him a lot better I’m 15 and my parents are divorced i live with my mom and he is the firey Pisces and i tried everything i could to try to make him happy with me and my slef but i understand now that i need to do more stuff with him and go hikeing and fishing thanks so very much thankyou

  22. Loved your story about your dad. He was handsome. Your mom also was good looking. I am also a March 5th native. I want to read all the articles you have on Neptune – Have transiting Neptune on my second house sun and Neptune in my 8th house. Life has been strange!


    • You’ll find tons of articles on natal and transiting Neptune, Tosca. (Neptune spoken here!) For a list of them with links, go to the onsite search engine at the top right hand corner of the home page. Donna Cunningham

  23. Donna, I am reading this years after you first posted.I too had a Pisces dad. Very artistic, very much living life according to his own rules. Reliable, when he wanted to be, not necessarily when I needed him to be. He awoke every morning at 5AM went to work and provided well financialy for the family. Fire rising (Sagg) He taught me more about compassion and kindness than anyone I know. As you explained with the fire component we were busy doing something all the time. He taught me every sport and how to use machinery in his Design shop. (Again, when he wanted.) As I matured I learned our relationship worked best when I did not rely on him for anything, but accepted what he had to offer when he wanted to make the effort. His gifts were many, but being a reliable emotional support for a child was not one of them. He was born 8 March 1918. He had Saturn conjunct Neptune of that era as did my mother. Elusive for most of my life.His Uranus was in tight conjunct to my Aquarius Sun.We had many positive crossoveres with Synastry as well. He was addicted to smoking and a nightly brandy (died of throat cancer). We connected really well in my adulthood when what I was looking for from him was just friendship. For me he was easy to love, just not easy to rely upon. Now for the universe telling me there is more to learn. My youngest son was born just hours before the Sun went into Aries, same degree rising as my father with a new moon in Pisces. Similar in so many ways! Lesson for me: love him, know he will always travel to the beat of his own drum. He is 30 now, no permanent relationship (Uranus conjunct Ascendant) says he does not want children. So for those of us with Pisces dad’s– are they the issue, or is it our wanting different and more the issue. Is it hard for those of us who really don’t understand the ephemeral nature of the Piscean the real issue? I do know some people are toxic no matter what, maybe my Sun trine Neptune makes me want to see it all in some positive light. Thank you Donna. Lovely story. I have enjoyed ‘meeting’ more people with Pisces Dads.

    • Thanks, Kathryn, good insight on how to deal with a pisces dad without being driven around the bend! Donn

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