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The Astrological Journal

Transits to Stelliums and the Recurring Story Arcs They Trigger

by Donna Cunningham

HandbookThe following is an excerpt from Donna Cunningham's new astrology/self help/reference work: The Stellium Handbook: An Owner's Manual for People with Stelliums or Triple Conjunctions. The tools and techniques featured in this ebook are written in simple language and designed to help people analyse the pieces of a stellium, step by step, in order to make the most of the gifts it promises and to avoid self-defeating patterns that can get in the way.

If you're juggling the complex mixture of planets in a stellium or triple conjunction, your life story isn't the same as most people's you know, though the broad outlines might be similar. What makes you different is the cast of recurring characters – or their types – and the repeated story arcs. A story arc is an extended or continuing storyline. Explore the story that keeps replaying itself and that cast of characters. It may have minor variations but so often works out the same as the last few times. Later, we'll look at how transits trigger those episodes and yet provide windows to change how they play out.

Understanding past story arcs is an important tool for growth. Reliving the past may seem like a nostalgic trip down memory lane – or a bad nightmare – but noticing themes, and coming to understand why they happen, spurs growth in using a stellium well. When you perceive how your thinking, beliefs, expectations, and self-defeating behavior set you up for an unhappy experience, you're less likely to let it happen again under new transits.

The sequence of planets in the stellium tells the story

The sequence of events in the story arc unfolds repeatedly in your lifetime during various transits to the series of planets in a stellium. This pattern often becomes a theme. The players involved may be the same each time, or they may look different on the outside – like characters in a play wearing a mask. Unless you've learned new ways of relating since the last time the sequence was triggered by a transit, the relationships can turn out the same way.

On the other hand, knowing how to use the positive potentials represented by that same series of planets can help you make better, more conscious choices. Analyzing things you did right and consciously repeating those strategies is as important as learning from your mistakes. By identifying times you used that series to achieve something worthwhile, you can look ahead to coming transits to find future intervals for progress.

The timing of new events and conditions in the areas of life signified by the stellium's house placement is shown by transits from the slower-moving planets (Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto) to the planets in the mix. As a transit touches on one planet after another in the stellium sequence, it heralds a series of events and developments related to the house, planets, and signs in the combination.

The order of natal planets sets up a recurring story arc – for better or for worse. What happens – and how you respond – during transits to planets early in the combination sets the tone for later ones. Therefore, how you master challenges signified by the first several transiting aspects affects the outcome of later ones.

Transiting planets affect the same degrees repeatedly due to the apparent direct and retrograde motion of transiting planets. Studying the transits will help you narrow down crucial periods in your story arc. Typically, Saturn aspects a natal planet for about eight months, while transits from slow-moving Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto last several years.

Why the first and last planets in the combination are crucial

All stories have a beginning, middle, and end, and so do all stelliums. Perhaps the most crucial pieces of a stellium are the first planet – known as the lead planet – and the last one. The lead planet is the one in the earliest degree of the zodiac. In a stellium with Mars at 4° Cancer, Jupiter at 8° Cancer, Moon at 9°, and Uranus at 10°, Mars is the lead planet and Uranus is the last. If a mixed sign stellium contains planets at 28° Sagittarius, 1° Capricorn, 2° Capricorn, and 5° Capricorn, the planet at 28° Sagittarius is the lead planet. The last planet will be the planet at the latest degree in the stellium – 5° Capricorn in this example.

The lead planet is automatically the first affected by new transits that represent periods of challenge, change, and even crisis. It's like the first responder at the scene of an emergency – the first police officer, firefighter, or EMT, for example. What that person does upon arriving has a huge influence on the outcome. If first responders make the right moves, it helps stabilize the crisis, but if they make the wrong ones, the challenge is harder to overcome. Backgrounds of first responders may or may not suit the task, but they cope heroically until better-qualified helpers arrive, then step back unless they're needed. The same is true of the lead planet in a stellium.

When you encounter new people or situations in matters described by the stellium's house, observe how the part of you represented by the lead planet responds. It establishes ground rules and creates the structure for how the other planets in the group operate. It affects the functioning of the entire stellium, setting the tone for dealings with other people involved. The less desirable qualities associated with the lead planet affect people's first impression of you and can have a negative effect on the mission's outcome. On the other hand, capitalizing on the strengths and assets it represents increases your chances of resolving the situation to your advantage. Conscious awareness of that planet's pluses and minuses can help you discover more successful tactics.

That part of you triggers an automatic reaction to events or changes in the status quo. That reaction is a defense mechanism. An undesirable response doesn't have to be the automatic one, however, once you become conscious of it. If the lead planet were Venus in a sociable sign like Leo or Libra, you'd be open and welcoming to new people. With a well-aspected Mercury as lead, you'd communicate freely about yourself and your mission and would want to know all you could about the newcomer.

If it were Saturn, you might react fearfully and close down while you figure out how to protect yourself. Suppose Mars is the lead planet. It represents the urge to be first, to be a pioneer, to lead, and to win. It's happiest as the lead planet, but aggressive outreach isn't always an ideal approach. Suppose it's placed in uncomfortable signs such as Scorpio or Pisces, or it makes a number of difficult aspects such as conjunctions to Uranus or Pluto. Then your first response might be an aggressive or defensive one to ward off conditions you perceive as a threat.

Taking responsibility for your part in the situation – even if it's passive acceptance of mistreatment – is a key to getting on a better track. Blaming others rather than looking at your own contribution won't change anything; it just fixates you in the pattern and adds more layers of frustration and unhappiness. Even if the scenery and props are different, the feelings, urges, and events involved are often eerily similar. When this happens, compare the current situation with former events, and you'll start to see connections. If you recognize compulsive, self-destructive behaviors, seek out healing tools to change the pattern.

With Saturn or Pluto in the lead, you're likely to react to new people or conditions as a threat and close ranks to protect yourself, the matters of the stellium's house, and the mission. If Uranus is the first planet, you're generally on the leading edge in your areas of interest. You may be an innovator and trendsetter who some people may find exciting. The old timers in that field, however, may find you disturbing and regard you as a maverick or troublemaker. (Words like upstart and gadfly come to mind.) They may even see you as DANGEROUS!

Here, in summary, are the reasons the lead planet has such a strong influence:

  • It shows the first contact that others make with the stellium and its mission. It reveals your first impulse in approaching matters of that house.
  • It's the first planet to be hit by a transit, and then the others follow in sequence.
  • Therefore, this first response alerts you to changing conditions in the house matters.
  • How effective that response is in dealing with the new situation makes a difference in the outcome of the mission. If it's typically ineffective, you might want to devote a healing project to the qualities that planet depicts.

Why the last planet in the series is so important: understanding and managing the qualities described by the last planet are nearly as crucial as learning how to handle the lead planet well. The responses and actions it suggests wrap up the experience and aim for closure, therefore greatly influencing the outcome.

Combined with the nature of the transiting planet, it suggests how the current episode in your life story may end. It doesn't initiate and structure the action the way the lead does – it's the clean-up crew that handles the aftermath once the series of transits is over. Slow- moving transits to the last stellium planet can be in effect as long as three years, so coming to terms with things that happened during transits to the whole series can last a good while. After all, adjusting to a life-changing event – whether positive or negative – may take years.

Suppose Mars is the last planet rather than the first. If you're not using the qualities that Mars symbolizes well, you might become aggressive in a self-protective way and alienate the other players, leaving all concerned with bad feelings. By digesting the experience and learning from it, however, you can make better use of those qualities, come away energized, and lead the other players in decisive action. If it's Venus – the peacemaker – instead, a major goal during the wrapping up process would be to create closeness between group members in the face of shared adversity.

Having Pluto as the last planet can be tricky. If the person has worked hard to shed the effects of the difficult history it often signifies and is now using Pluto's energies well, then transits to Pluto can show a time of great healing and rebirth. It can even be a time when they recognize how their experiences can give them the ability to bring healing to others with similar backgrounds. If, however, they're still mired in the difficult expressions of these energies, then the situations portrayed by the transit can take a turn for the worse at the end of the series. Familiar patterns involving power struggles, betrayal, and lingering resentments can be evoked.

Within a given story arc, so much depends on how well you're using the energies that the lead and last planet symbolize. If you don't like the result, make a focused effort to change the ways you're using them, and things will change for the better. Nobody with a stellium can juggle all those different energies perfectly. Remember, this is a lifetime learning curve rather than a four-year university degree. However, the insight we gain from regular self-evaluation is a boost to growth. As time goes on, it helps us learn from our mistakes and become more and more successful in our missions.

A positive story arc – Prince William's emergence as a Royal

The life of Prince William of England is a prime example of the ways a long transit to all the planets in a stellium can take its expression to the next level. His four-planet stellium in the 9th house is not an easy one, despite the charm and strong people skills of his Libra placements there. He has natal Mars, Saturn, and Pluto in Libra, plus Jupiter in Scorpio conjunct the Midheaven. My suspicion is that Jupiter is the dominant planet in the stellium. Jupiter has appeared at the Midheaven in the charts of many of England's rulers. It does not appear there in Prince Charles' chart, leading me to suspect – as many of us do – that Charles will turn over the crown to William.

Mars 9 Libra 12
Saturn 15 Libra 30 (stationary, turned direct on 18/6)
Pluto 24 Libra 09 Rx
Jupiter 0 Scorpio 29 Rx (stationary, turned direct on 27/6)
Midheaven 2 Scorpio 28
Table 1: Planets in Willian's 9th house stellium

Saturn as a trigger in William's true coming of age

Up to the point when transiting Saturn entered Libra in 2009, William was essentially a boy – a delightful, engaging, and much-adored boy, but a boy nonetheless – even, at times, a playboy. Delay in maturing is sometimes seen when natal Saturn is part of a stellium, as it is in this instance. The turning point for this placement usually comes when transiting Saturn is conjunct natal Saturn, a true coming of age era between the ages of 28 and 29 known as the Saturn return.

Year: Saturn: Uranus: Neptune: Pluto:
2009 15 VI - 3 L 19 - 26 PI 23 - 26 AQ 0 - 3 CP
2010 27 VI - 14 LI 23 PI - 0 AR 24 - 28 AQ 2 - 5 CP
2011 10 - 25 LI 26 PI - 4 AR 26 AQ - 0 PI 4 - 7 CP
2012 23 LI - 6 SC 0 - 8 AR 28 AQ - 3 PI 6 - 9 CP
2013 5 - 17 SC 4 - 12 AR 1 - 5 PI 9 - 11 CP
2014: 16 SC - 0 SG 8 - 15 AR 3 - 7 PI 11 - 13 CP
Table 2: Distance covered by the outer planets, 2009 - 2014

Among other things, the 9th house, where William's stellium is placed, represents advanced education and foreign countries. During his Saturn return, he grew into manhood and took his place as a Royal in his own right. He completed his university education, served abroad admirably in the military, and began taking over some diplomatic duties for his grandmother. As a representative of England, he became as much a loved figure in his world travels as Diana.

Libra is the sign of committed relationships, and as transiting Saturn crossed William's Libra placements one after another, he became engaged to his off-again, on-again love, Kate Middleton. They married on April 29th 2011, in a fairy tale ceremony watched by millions worldwide. Stellium people often seek out other stellium people or undergo important milestones in their lives when there's a stellium by transit. Kate has a triple conjunction of Mars, Saturn, and Pluto, all near the same degrees as his – a reason they work together so seamlessly.

We often see important changes in status during transits to the 10th or Midheaven.

The wedding chart, which must have been selected for them by one of his mother's astrologers, had a stellium in the sign of Aries that included Venus, Mars, Mercury, and Jupiter in the 10th. On 29th April 2011 at 11:00am in Westminster Abbey, William married Catherine Middleton. Earlier that morning, by royal custom, he was given new titles – Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn and Baron Carrickfergus. The wedding chart stellium was in the 9th and 10th houses, just like William's own stellium: Uranus 2° Aries, Midheaven 7°, Venus 9°, Mercury 14°, Mars 20°, Jupiter 21° Aries, Sun 8° Taurus.

Saturn transits can bring important accomplishments and a new, more mature use of a stellium's energies. As this series of transits continued, Saturn crossed his Midheaven, and his status in the world changed irrevocably. He became a Duke rather than a Prince, and his beautiful bride became a Duchess. On 22nd July 2013 at 4:24pm in London, they had their first child, one who may someday rule England. True to the pattern, baby George has a stellium – they do often run in families. It's in Cancer in the 8th house, and it includes Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, and the Sun.

William came through the series of Saturn transits to his stellium in an admirable way. Saturn is said to be exalted in Libra – that is, at its best – and he doesn't use his Saturn in selfish, ambitious ways, but rather for the good of those who suffer, such as AIDS victims and African countries.

What developments do stellium transits bring?

The potentials of a stellium or triple conjunction are something you grow into over the years. It's precisely during transits by the slower-moving planets to one stellium planet after another that you're presented with a series of events, challenges, and developments, many of them familiar from previous story arcs. They stretch you and make you find better uses of planets in the combination. When transits to a stellium are good, they are very, very good, and when they are bad, they can mark a crisis. Many stellium owners experience either peak periods or meltdowns during transits and progressions to that cluster, followed by a huge growth spurt if they learn the necessary lessons.

A transit to even a single natal planet marks a series of stages, because the slower-moving planets form aspects to a natal planet as many as three or four times because of direct and retrograde motion. In short, a transit from the outermost planets is a process – both inner and outer – rather than a single event. Here are some of the kinds of challenges and changes people experience during the process of a transit from one of the slower-moving planets to the series of natal planets in the stellium:

During a Saturn transit, to those areas of life you're: During a Uranus transit, to those areas of life you're: During a Neptune transit, to those areas of life you're: During a Pluto transit, to those areas of life you're:
Confronting lack or loss
Taking responsibility
Eliminating dead wood
Getting your act together
Raising the bar
Performing at peak
Waiting for the right time
Reaping what you have sown

Feeling stifled and restless
Questioning the status quo
Discovering like-minded souls
Experimenting with possibilities
Straining at bonds
Bursting out of confinement
Reinventing yourself
Reconfiguring your life
Feeling discontented or lost
Realizing you're stuck
Seeking a white knight or savior
Fooling yourself you've found it
Submerging Self in The Other
Finding out you've been had
Turning to Spirit for peace
Brooding on wrongs
Delving into causes of pain
Unearthing the suppressed
Reacting to your discoveries
Accepting your part in it
Healing the wounds
Reclaiming your power

The slower-moving planets – Saturn to Pluto – that are part of the stellium already are particularly significant when they transit. The midlife cycle, when transiting Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto all make aspects to their natal position, can be a real turning point if the outer planets are part of the stellium natally. Again, self-awareness and an understanding of how these planets have operated in your life previously can make all the difference in how you handle a new series of transits. Rather than just a repetition of your past, the new story arc that is triggered can be a triumphant emergence into wholeness.


Chart data: Prince William, 21 June 1982, 9:03pm, London, UK (source: AstroDatabank, AA rating)

First published in: The Astrological Journal, Sept/Oct 2014


Donna Cunningham Donna Cunningham is an award-winning astrologer with a Master's degree in Social Work, over 45 years' experience as a professional astrologer, and a solid background in flower essences and other healing tools. Donna is the internationally-known author of 15 well-received astrology books, 20 years of advice columns for Dell Horoscope, and thousands of astrology articles. She has written the only known reference work on stelliums – The Stellium Handbook. Born in 1942, she has over 70 years of hands-on experience in managing her own Gemini stellium. For more information about her books, visit her blog at http://www.skywriter.wordpress.com. How to order her books.

© Donna Cunningham - published by The Astrological Association of Great Britain 2014

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