Anybody who has crossed the border between two countries knows how it is. Some borders of course a traditionally worse than others, and you would not get far trying to go from South to North Korea for example. There the no-man’s-land is seeded with mines, and electronics register anyone so foolish to intrude, night or day. But even a relatively innocuous border like that between Poland and Germany retains the essential characteristics:

1. When the traveler approaches the border he/she is still in a very familiar landscape. The language is well known, the car number plates recognizable. Toilets and plumbing have a particular design and size of pipe; electricity fittings are as expected. The coffee tastes just so, as does the tea, beer etc. The people are dressed in a certain style; the men and women relate in a distinctive way. You are familiar with the money.

2. When you reach the border, you’ll find an outpost pertaining to the country you’re coming from, a stretch of land, which appears to belong to nobody, then an outpost representing the country you are going to. There is a sense of excitement and expectancy, but also a feeling of bleakness, even of danger. Anything could happen here: will your passport be accepted, will the border be closed, will you be searched? It’s a very vulnerable position indeed.

3. You enter the new country. You are completely lost. You don’t know the language, may not even have the appropriate currency yet. The toilets work differently, the coffee tastes weird. You’re on new territory; all your senses are alert, you’re eager to discover but you tread carefully.

Planets on the cusp

That’s what it’s like to be on a border – also when you’re a planet. Planets enter each new sign according to their rhythm, completely satiated with experience from the previous sign, in a state of transition, and poised to learn anew. There is very little of the cusp effect – where the planet is influenced by the next or previous sign – unless a planet is in the very last or very first degree of a sign, on perhaps just ½ degree from the zero mark. But even in such cases, a planet at 29.59 degrees is still fully associated with the sign it is in. But it is satiated, tired even; it has no stomach for further experiences in a sign it is expert at expressing itself in, and is dying to move on. It is old and mature. Nothing more can happen where it is. A planet at 0.01 of a new sign has abandoned the baggage of the last sign at the border like a useless currency. If it is going to make progress, and it surely is, then it will need a new language – Polish will not do in Germany. This planet is completely rejuvenated, but naive and prone to error.

Retrograde and direct

And then there are the borderliners. These are planets which make a journey into a new sign, but hesitate and stop after a period of time, to return to the previous sign in retrograde motion, only to stop again and re-enter the new sign. Such is Uranus in 2003, entering Pisces on March 3rd 2003, only to return to Aquarius on September 15th, turning at 28.54 Aquarius on November 8th, finally returning to Pisces on December 30th. A borderliner is inspired with a mission, which is to bring the experience and wisdom of a sign backwards or forwards to the previous/next sign.

Uranus: Pisces > Aquarius

As regards Uranus, the transition between Aquarius and Pisces saw the switch of emphasis from UN diplomacy (Aquarius) to the “shock and awe” invasion over Iraq’s border to get the oil. Sorry, to get the weapons of mass destruction 😉 … Jupiter is still in opposition to Neptune, so let’s keep up appearances. Those fearsome weapons will probably be “found” when Jupiter trines Pluto in early July. With the experience of Uranus in Pisces informing the revisit to Aquarius, September to December will amongst other things show some UN follow-up from the Iraq war. There will also be some kind of attempt at international consensus about the ravages of the effects reflected by Uranus in Pisces – health issues (SARS), poverty and chaos, pollution and fishing, dirty bombs etc.

Mars and Uranus: an explosive pair

When a borderliner crosses and re-crosses a border, it marks territory. From the point of view of Uranus in 2003 this means that the degrees from 2.49 Pisces (where it goes retrograde on June 7th) to 28.54 Aquarius (where it goes direct) are sensitized and explosive – a band of the zodiac of about 4 degrees has been “seeded”. Any other planet entering any part of this territory will be subject to the unpredictable energy of Uranus. I write this article with Mars at 0.08 Pisces, and this planet will also go retrograde at 10 Pisces in July to go direct again at 0.07 Pisces. It does not quite make borderline status, nor does it quite catch retrograde Uranus, which by this time has retreated into Aquarius. Nevertheless Mars is in the minefield which Uranus previously seeded, and can easily stumble against the trigger wires – September is the month to watch, with the close (but never exact) Mars/Uranus conjunction.

Borderliners in progressions

Cross-border traffic can also happen in the birth horoscope. A person could for example have Jupiter at 22 Capricorn, and its primary influence would of course be Capricornian. But prior to birth Jupiter might actually have reached 2 Aquarius before going retrograde. Jupiter seeds an area of about 10 degrees by retrograde motion. This would mean that the person in question would have access to a body of wisdom related to Aquarius, which it is his mission to realize in a practical way through Capricorn skills. When planets cross and re-cross borders in this way, there really is a cusp influence, in the sense that the person is influenced by the adjacent sign. This person has a mission to introduce the concepts of one sign to the denizens of another. This could be a spy who gathers information for his masters, a merchant bringing wares from afar, an immigrant or refugee, or a person who marries cross-culturally.

MC/IC axis

All the planets have the ability to be borderliners through retrograde motion; only the Sun, Moon, Ascendant and MC cannot. Nevertheless the angles of the chart have great significance when they sit astride two signs. In this case it is almost invariably the case that the person has one foot in one area, and the other somewhere quite different. A person with the MC/IC axis in the last couple of degrees of Gemini/Sagittarius will have an area of the life corresponding to these signs – working perhaps as a salesman and always on the move internationally. Then he might have an area of life corresponding to Cancer/Capricorn – a second job on the family farm, for example. Similarly a person with the Ascendant/Descendant axis on the cusp might have two quite separate lifestyles, and two quite separate areas of relationship.

Israel – a borderline case

See horoscope of Israel

Sometimes the very fate of a country is contained in its borderline status. Israel has Libra rising and ruling planet Venus at 4 degrees Cancer is in the 9th house exactly on the USA’s Jupiter/Venus conjunction. This reflects the incredibly strong and fortunate economic bonds to America, and shows the Israeli population having their roots abroad. Israel’s Venus goes retrograde by progression at 11 Cancer 19 days/years after its creation, whereupon Venus journeys back into Gemini. It enters Gemini by progression in 1994 at about the time of the Oslo agreement, and leaves Gemini in 2028. As Israel was founded with Uranus at 24 Gemini there is a long conjunction of progressed Venus to progressed Uranus, starting in 1999 and ending in 2026. That’s a challenging dialogue! The whole fate of Israel in this period is tied up with sporadic and difficult communication across an enormous cultural, religious and linguistic divide. Yet it is their mission to learn about division – not until successful dialogue has been created where two nations live side by side (Gemini) can they return to the comforts and security of Cancer. Don’t expect this to be complete before 2028

The Transition

The actual transition point of a sign cusp often has extremely unusual characteristics. It is almost like restarting a computer after the installation of a new operating system. In the interval, the system is down. It’s a bit like that when the Ascendant sign changes at any particular moment during the day. Clients arriving at this time (or just people you meet) – with an Ascendant in the last few degrees or first few degrees of a sign – often don’t quite know where they are. But as an astrologer, you do know where they are. The last degrees reflect a person winding up an existing situation, not in a position to make any further important adjustments to it, yet often not fully aware of what lies ahead. The first few degrees reflect a person perhaps somewhat dazed by change, not at all sure of what lies ahead and how to make the first moves, but absolutely incapable of returning to a previous situation.

Each sign cusp has it special signature:

Aries/Taurus : The energy has run out, the excitement has palled. It’s time to go for security and make some money. The warrior lays down his arms and gives himself over to pleasure.
Taurus/Gemini : Security has degenerated into stagnation. The urge to leave the secure harbor manifests. The couch potato enrolls on a course; there is the bubble of laughter and conversation.
Gemini/Cancer : Learning offers no more advantages; it’s time to mature and build a home. The incarnated intellectual marries and gets children.
Cancer/Leo : Clannish protectiveness is no longer fulfilling, and the urge to create and get recognition manifests. The family man/woman drops the kids and realizes his/herself. Leo/Virgo : Fame is empty, the ego is satiated; there is more meaning in dedicating self to others and helping. The unemployed artist gets a job; the boss retires and takes less-demanding work.
Virgo/Libra : There is weariness with meaningless and repetitive work, and the realization that a relationship consists of sharing not serving. The wage-slave spends money on new clothes and starts wooing.
Libra/Scorpio : The unbearable lightness of being makes way for a readiness to confront the monsters within. Superficiality makes way for depth. The party person decides to take a huge emotional risk.
Scorpio/Sagittarius : Dredging the depths brings endless mud – it’s time to lighten up and see the world. Emotional wrecks see light on the horizon – there is hope and happiness.
Sagittarius/Capricorn : What are wisdom and worldly ways if they can’t be used practically? It’s time to get down to business. The cosmopolitan slams on the brakes and sets some serious goals.
Capricorn/Aquarius : Work for its own sake seems empty, and status no longer fulfilling. Radical experiments are taken with new (international) social perspectives. The businessman drops ambitions and involves himself in the community.
Aquarius/Pisces : Freedom and wildness are not the answer; there is a spiritual turn. (But it can get wilder). Strange problems bring even stranger solutions. A man abandons his friends and sails around the world.
Pisces/Aries : Nothing has worked; life is empty and meaningless – so why not make something happen? Forgetting the sorrows – it’s all the past now – naive enthusiasm becomes the guiding light. The martyr becomes warrior.

Marking territory

The distant planets from Uranus, Neptune and Pluto seed an area from about 3½ to 2½ degrees, and will almost always be borderliners, returning over a cusp every time they change signs. Saturn and Jupiter, which seed an area of 10 and 7 degrees respectively, make large jumps in direct motion, and therefore only periodically acquire borderline status. For example Saturn went retrograde at 29 Gemini in October 2002, and goes direct at 6 Cancer in March 2004, so never makes a bridge between the two signs. Faster moving planets like Mercury periodically make extraordinary trips backwards and forwards over borders, and these are related to more specific short-term events. One notable recent occasion was when Mercury retrograded back to 29.56 Libra from Scorpio on the day of the November 2000 US election, where it remained for just a day. As everyone will recall, the election hung on a knife-edge, with the balance going first up and then down – what greater testimony to the influence of a borderline Libra position?

In the progressed chart, such a borderline movement would have enormous significance. One client born in August 1959 had Venus retrograde in Virgo, which at the age of 30 stationed on at 29.52 Leo, spending 4 years on this key degree before returning to Virgo. During those 4 years he had a wonderful relationship with a very dramatic and well-known personality, only for it to mysteriously peter out, and since the Venus return to Virgo, no relationships have matched this meeting, and the client remains unmarried.

The Transition

Understanding the meaning of a planet’s progress through a sign adds a new dimension to planetary placement, showing that it’s not just the sign a planet is in, but also the degree that is significant. Early in a sign it has lots to learn; if it’s in the middle decanate there is a fine balance of potential and experience, and towards the end, maturity but weariness. Added to this is the completely special status of the borderliner, whose mission it is to create a bridge from one world and consciousness, to another. Understanding this status can give a completely new perspective on a horoscope – for example that of Israel – and serve as a guide following and expressing a unique mission.

Adrian Ross Duncan 17th June, 2003.


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