©2010 by Donna Cunningham, MSW
Note: this is an excerpt from a longer article about this aspect in my ebooklet, Astrological Aspects: the Building Blocks of Chart Interpretation, based on my series about aspects in The Mountain Astrologer.
The quincunx—also known as the inconjunct—is a 150° angle formed by planets five signs apart with orbs of up to 3°. Whether in the birth chart or by transit, making the two planets in a quincunx work together can be demanding—even a stretch. Charles Jayne said that in this aspect, people are asked to reconcile the irreconcilable, and thus the quincunx requires a creative leap to blend the two sets of needs and traits.
Oppositions can balance one another–with sufficient give and take, there’s a kind of partnership. Squares butt heads because the two planets are in competition with one another, yet clash in part because they want some of the same types of things.
The quincunx, however, is an “it does not compute” aspect. The wants and needs of the two signs involved have no real connection—instead it’s a disconnect. They’re unrelated by element or mode, so there’s no natural point of contact, no easy affinity or resonance. What do Cancer and Aquarius have in common—or Sagittarius and Taurus?
Thinking inside the Box: For each aspect, I’ve created a piece of conceptual art. The phrases in the box portray the nature of the combination. How would that particular aspect show up? How does the angle shape the ways the planets interact? What energy pattern is produced? What psychological patterns does it tend to create? Here’s the box for the essence of a quincunx.
Affinity of the Planets: The angle between two planets in aspect is often less influential than how essentially compatible they are. Are they a good match or a bad one—are their basic natures harmonious or at odds?
A quincunx between Mercury and Uranus would almost be a redundancy—the combination already suggests an individual with a quirky sense of humor and a tendency to put an odd spin on matters.
Combining the Sun with Neptune in almost any aspect, however, can a challenge. The Sun represents the sense of self, while Neptune represents our capacity to merge with others and All That Is—the capacity and the wish to lose ourselves in something greater.
When Neptune makes difficult aspects to the Sun, seeing oneself clearly is a life-long challenge. The Sun wants to know, “who am I?” Neptune has us contemplating the unknowable, forever shape-shifting and elusive. The Sun continually asks, “What’s in it for me? Neptune asks, “How can I relieve the suffering around me?”
Effect of the sign placement: Each sign has two quincunx positions. The easy way to find them is that they fall on either side of the oppositions. Aries is opposite Libra, so the two quincunx signs are Virgo and Scorpio. Taurus is opposite Scorpio, so the quincunxes are Libra and Sagittarius. Understanding the sign placements of the two planets is the best way to fathom this aspect. Look at the table of quincunx signs below and consider the disparities between paired-up signs:
|Aries:||Virgo, Scorpio||Libra:||Pisces, Taurus|
|Taurus:||Libra, Sagittarius||Scorpio:||Aries, Gemini|
|Gemini:||Scorpio, Capricorn||Sagittarius:||Taurus, Cancer|
|Cancer:||Sagittarius, Aquarius||Capricorn:||Gemini, Leo|
|Leo:||Capricorn, Pisces||Aquarius:||Cancer, Virgo|
|Virgo:||Aquarius, Aries||Pisces:||Leo, Libra|
In signs joined by quincunx, the two energies strain each other, neither working to its best effect because the signs have no commonality. They aren’t related by element—signs that are compatible are in the same or a complementary element. Fire and air are complimentary but not compatible with earth or water. Earth and water are complimentary but not compatible with fire and air. They’re also not in the same mode–cardinal, fixed, or mutable.
To take just one example, match the textbook Cancer with the textbook Sagittarius. Cancer is sensitive and easily wounded; Sagittarians are often tactless, afflicted with hoof in mouth disease. Cancers love to stay home for vacations or go back to their home towns; given the resources, Sagittarians would travel the world perpetually. Sagittarians may read the wisdom of the ages; Cancerians espouse a down-home wisdom.
Effect of the house combination: The difficulty with most quincunxes is that not only are the planets five signs apart; they are usually also five houses. Why is that a problem? The houses represent the formal structure of our lives and the major roles we assume, such as parent, mate, employee, friend, or student. A role is a set of behaviors, rights, and obligations through which society governs the actions of an individual.
Certain behaviors are deemed appropriate and others inappropriate. When two planets in a quincunx are five houses apart, we attempt to join two sets of roles that aren’t naturally related, and it tends not to work out well, for it creates inappropriate expectations.
Take the 11th and 6th—when you hire a friend and times get rough, you may have to make managerial decisions that put a strain on the friendship. Joining the 5th with the 10th isn’t considered a good move—sleeping with the boss can create career fallout.
The 1st house is the first impression people get of us, and when there’s a quincunx from the 8th house, an overtly-sexual appearance can give people the wrong impression. It might work for media stars, but isn’t advisable for job interviews or meeting your honey’s parents.
Got Quincunxes? You Gotta Laugh!
Incongruity is another quality of quincunxes, and it’s also one of the main elements of humor, a juxtaposition of ideas or situations that just don’t fit together. Some of the biggest laughs happen when incongruity between two things is exposed in a bit of shock. When things go that badly askew, you have to laugh at them. Charles Jayne studied the astrology charts of the comedians of his day and found many quincunxes. Over the years, I’ve found that he was right, for comics’ charts are often filled with these mismatched aspects.
There’s a fine line with quincunxes, though, between people laughing with you and laughing at you. William Shatner, whose Sun at 0 ° Aries is aspected by Neptune at 3° Virgo, is a prime example. (See his chart at AstroDataBank here: Shatner, William.) In that brief, shining moment as Captain Kirk of Star Trek, he captured our imagination as a larger than life hero.
Eventually, his posturing became a caricature, and, with each succeeding role, he became more and more the butt of comedians’ jokes. He now seems to embrace that position, caricaturing his own self in commercials and sitcoms. (He laughs all the way to the bank!)
Readers, do you have a quincunx in your chart? What planets and signs are involved? Can you see the incongruity between the two signs? How have you managed to make them work together? Tell us about it in the comment section.
UPDATE: Continue your studies with these follow-up articles:
But first, since the quincunx has only a 3° orb, make sure your quincunx isn’t really a biquintile (144°):