I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone smugly state to me that astrology Cannot Be Real because “I’m an Aries and I’m shy,” or “I’m a Virgo and I am a mess,” or “I’m a Leo and I have stage fright and short hair,” or whatever. Listen, no single astrologer has ever said you must be x because your sun is y. And there’s so many ways that astrology already accounts for that.
However, a popular trend with some astrologers has been to…NOT explain or educate people on why they might have real and detailed aspects in their chart that express this, that very clearly show and describe why someone might feel distant from their sun sign or have traits of multiple signs. Instead, a school of thought has emerged where intermediate level astrologers draw a haphazard line around the dates of sign change in the zodiac and say… “welp, falling here makes you both of these signs, actually, because you’re on the cusp.”
Listen, I get it. Some signs get relentlessly dunked on, or get summarized so brusquely and cruelly. If all you see all the time when you first get into astrology is a constant barrage of “this person is a sensitive crybaby who never does anything cool” or “all of these people are manipulative cheaters and liars who are incapable of love,” it feels really bad. It hurts your self-esteem even though it’s stupid and you know it doesn’t really reflect on you. Ultimately, it turns you off of your sun sign. It makes you look for reasons not to be that, identify with that, or call yourself that. That is why those of born between like the 15th – 30th and 1- 10th of a given month (depending on your flavor of cusp-strologer) get so entranced upon finding the concept of The Cusp.
I am On The Cusp, as in a general cusp that someone attached to the dates of my sun sign. When I first heard of cusps, I was a wide-eyed kid who devoured astrological concepts…and who was incredibly disappointed by the “fussy schoolmarm” depiction of Virgos.
I really believed in the system of astrology and found it fascinating, but when it came to what it said about me, I was like, so offended that these people who didn’t know me were condemning me to a life of being boring and enjoying broccoli and folding socks. All the other signs got these fun, exciting associations, like parties, glamour, witchcraft, science, romance… I was miffed to be described solely with words like “critical” and “narrow-minded” and so on, and I stayed away from my own chart except to sigh dejectedly and curse the sky for not making me a Fun and Cool Leo, until one day, digging through some Google search or another, everything changed.
I stumbled upon some Geocities site with in-depth catalogues of this new thing called the Cusp Signs, and I was like, WOW. I am Not Like the Other Boring Virgos who are just whiny and fussy because actually, I am a Virlibra!! I am beautiful and desirable while still being enthralled and soothed by neatly organized things and the act of alphabetizing. This makes so much sense!!
Learning that I was a Cusp felt freeing, and it made me feel so, so special. I, unlike those one-dimensional, middle-of-the-month Virgos before me, was a complex being. I had more than two traits, and some of them were even cool. I was so proud, and whenever someone would wave me off and be like “Typical Virgo!” I would smugly reply, “Actually…” and inform them about ~The Cusp~, and feel proud of myself for knowing this secret and being able to describe what gave some people an astrological edge.
But that’s why it was such bad astrology. (Aside from the fact that jumping to correct people on my sign is like, peak baby Virgo and should have been proof enough for me that cusps are fake.)
When I had looked upon my sun sign as a failed and inadequate descriptor of me, Not Like The Other Virgos little me, I was dismissing the art of astrology and its complex network of concepts and reading techniques that vividly illustrate how each one of us is a multi-layered whole, a holistic being formed and described by a combination of life experience, background, generation, and so much more, a soul at a place in time shaped and shaping the context of people and place and time they’re part of.
My chart, in actuality, had never condemned me to a life of high neck frocks and furrowed brows and maternal tsking at people for folding book corners or whatever it is schlocky sun sign descriptions of Virgo say we do. My chart already had a lot of beautiful connections, placements, and detail that explained, with accurate and ancient measures, why I am a type B, self-expression oriented, emotional, social Virgo – and still very much a Virgo, who experiences more butterflies from opening a new package of really nice pens than getting a text back from someone I have a crush on.
When I learned how to read those points and orient myself in the complex and illustrative mess that is any natal chart, I began to see and appreciate the qualities that I desired that were already in me, because I could clearly identify where they were, and they were so much more descriptive and real when placed in their proper context. Even better, I allowed myself to acknowledge the wonderful things about my sun sign that I tried to cast away by embracing “being a cusp.” When I saw myself more objectively, through learning to read the objectively pointed out places in my chart that show my habits and my potential, I genuinely did like myself more, even the parts of me that I thought of badly or was disappointed in before.
I want you to have a better experience with astrology too, and I want you to have it with things you can find yourself. So it’s time for us to debunk The Cusp.
Cusps are fake.
Cusps are fake cause they don’t use the coherent principles that astrology was built on to inform their interpretation. They’re loose, vague, and just not the most specific or accurate way of talking about why someone doesn’t feel or express certain traits. They simplify sun signs and collapse all the other placements that add nuance, depth, and clarity to any reading, waving them off in favor of simplicity.
People latch onto it because it is the easiest and simplest to understand answer to “not feeling your sun sign,” and it makes a lot of intuitive sense. The thing is, astrology requires precision and logic in addition to intuition. That is what makes it more rigorous and precise than other forms of spiritual work – things have their place, their definitions, and their effects. Sometimes, a feeling is enough to go on. But astrology has added benefits because it has easily-mapped systems.
That being said, the experience of feeling like a cusp is totally real. It just usually isn’t caused by “being a cusp.” We’re going to talk about the real reasons that someone might not identify with their sun sign and why they might “feel” like a cusp.
Today is the Libra full moon for the year. Lunations always have an immediate influence on the feeling of the two weeks following, plus some later effects that can arise up to a month later. The chart around them can often feel like a look behind the curtain at things that are going to come up during that time period, and the moon itself is always deeply influenced by the activity in the stars around it.
This full moon is taking place during a quadruple retrograde. We’re nearly finished with Venus retrograde and we’ve already gone over some of the simple parts of this Mercury cycle, but today we’re going to go over some of the emotional effects of those movements and how they’re highlighted by this moon.
I tend to feel personally that Mercury retrogrades come on very fast. The last week of “shadow” prior to them always has a few events occur that make me realize what the “theme” of the retrograde is going to be, and how that might play out. For the past week, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the phrase “identity theft.” Mercury is currently moving backwards through a Venus-ruled sign, as Venus herself cycles up from the dark space of her own larger retrograde cycle. The way they’re woven together this season, you’d expect one’s movement to bring up issues that are related to the other, and I can see that happening right now. And in general, this relationship between the two bodies makes sense.
Relationships are based on communication; values are often reliant on what we’re able to understand and be informed of. Aries, where the Sun is this full moon and where Venus has left and is moving back towards, is about the expression of the self. It stands in opposition to Libra, where the moon and Jupiter are currently shining, and which rules the ways our selves harmonize into one cohesive entity — relationships. The needs of these two parts of our selves and all oppositions in astrology are, I think, often wrongly expressed as a tension. They are also interdependent on each other.
I think Venus’s time through personal-expression Aries and spiritual Pisces has asked us to make some changes to the way we ask others to respect the boundaries of our self. I think Mercury’s time through Venus-ruled Taurus is asking us to consider how other people can bring clarity or confusion into our understandings of ourselves. And so, this full moon is like a perfect thesis for the rest of this retrograde season — how do we define ourselves through each other? How come love and appreciation makes us desire sameness with each other, but necessitates that we understand and put words to our difference?
Because this is moon is wrapped up in a tangle of retrogrades, the way that we’re going to answer these questions is through confusion and agitation. The feeling that maybe we can’t resolve these two interconnected needs, before coming to the resolution that we might be able to. We all know Libra is a sign that wants to talk about balance, and moving into its energy, we often find that we’ve incorrectly weighted the scale so far.
So: back to identity theft. Because we’ve got these retrogrades, the identity theft here can totally mean credit card information, fraudulent accounts & people posing as each other online, false information and other effects that have material consequences. But on the emotional end, I also mean “who is stealing you.” Who is thieving your identity and why? This month is going to have us questioning and identifying how identities (Aries), values (Venus/Taurus), and ways of speaking (Mercury) can be co-opted for personal gain (back to Venus). But beyond that, we will be learning to guard ourselves against people who would speak for us or speak over us. Not just because it’s rude, but because it actually restricts us from speaking ourselves, as ourselves. (That’s the Saturn piece.) This full moon is a beaming, shining highlight on specifically the emotional undercurrent of all of this retrograde energy. It’s asking you to let go from judging yourself so you can more accurately judge the environment and people and communities that surround you, and whether or not they acknowledge you, and how they could be doing that better.
All of these are very inner planet issues, but look at how they intersect with outer planet movements to understand the full story. Neptune in Pisces makes the reality of situations very difficult to grasp. This placement, and its hard aspects with Saturn and Jupiter over the course of the past year or so, are what have given recent events the emotional quality of “unreality,” making world events seem like “fact stranger than fiction.” The inability to tell what Really Happened, what’s Really Going On has pervaded and obscured political discourse and our ability to ascribe cause or accurately describe its effects. This dynamic is the fake news, alternative facts, “not the Onion” influence in recent world astrology.
In our personal relationships, and in the scope of this lunar month, it describes how we often willfully see through other people’s ability to hurt us or use [our thoughts, labor, emotions, selves] us when they’re close to us. In fact, we write it off as something they may be doing unintentionally because they want to be closer to us, and we are intoxicated by the idea that someone desires this sameness and intimacy with us. Neptune in Pisces is the wishful thinking, “they don’t know what they’re really doing” denial of what’s really going on. It’s the part when you ignore the fact that something bothers you because you don’t think the other person did it on purpose and so you’re unwilling to blame them. It makes you forget that intent doesn’t erase impact, and prevents you from being able to identify the problem and speak to it.
Uranus in Aries is about the transformational qualities of self-(re)presentation and how those may change in opposition to our other needs — to connect with others, to relate to them (Jupiter in Libra). The Jupiter energy wants us all to be brought together, to work together, to balance each other. But the Uranus energy comes in bursts and fits, upsetting the delicate weight of the scales. It’s our needs, unique to each one of us, and how wildly unpredictable they can be until we realize they exist. The sun and moon mimic this during tonight’s lunation, and show us the balance that we still have to make.
It’s that time again.
But it’s nothing to be afraid of. Mercury is doing that thing again where he’s like “okay, I know I usually am here to mediate your communications and make them easy and all but I’m super tired and just going to nap for a few week,” and everyone else is all “omg you’re ruining my life,” but you shouldn’t get worked up, because we can take a look at what you in particular need to be especially careful of.
There’s always a couple of things to look at when you’re trying to get a sense for what’s going to happen during a retrograde period. They are:
- the three parts of the retrograde and when they start
- the sign that the retrograde is falling in & what else is going on in the rest of zodiac around it
- where in your chart the storm is touching down
We’re going to take a look at the first few together, and then I’m going to give patrons a deeper look at number 4.
Anatomy of a retrograde
A retrograde always occurs between two points, and it goes between those two points three times. That means there’s three distinct phases of retrograde. When it begins, it’s trucking along the zodiac in a forward direction until it starts slowing down due to incoming retrograde motion. Then it hits point A, and moves backwards on the zodiac wheel. We call that point “Mercury stationing retrograde.” During this spring’s Rx cycle, that point is 4 degrees Taurus. So Mercury has been happily zipping through Pisces, then plodding through Aries, then its shoelace comes untied and it starts tripping over it in the last few degrees of Aries through Taurus, and then it faceplants right at the beginning of its journey through Taurus. And then it turns right back around and starts running backwards because it’s embarrassed or something, idk.
Point is, it stops, and reverses. And then it’s going backwards through the zodiac, clunking right over all of those points that it had just run over before. It’s going to back up to a point, finally catch its breath, and then move back over them a third time before finally clearing the retrograde and moving on normally.
That means there are three different parts to each retrograde — two “shadows” on either side, when Mercury is going over the retrograde-affected points while moving direct, plus the retrograde itself.
Here, I’ve made a low quality illustration to show you kind of what it looks like. It’s not to proper scale and all the sign symbols somehow got misaligned, but you get the idea. The “points A and B” of the retrograde are the two black lines on Mercury’s path. When he crosses the first line in forward motion, the first shadow starts. When he hits the second line, he stations retrograde and moves backwards. Then he hits the first line, stations direct, and moves forward through the second shadow. When he finally crosses the second black line, the retrograde period is over.
Shadow period 1 for this round of retrograde is already well underway. This is like the part of the horror movie when the protagonist is driving up to the house and you’re like “huh, something is totally off.” But if you stay perceptive and flexible, you can kind of deduce what’s going on. Use that to your advantage. During this time, you can kind of get a feel for what issues are going to come up later so you can prepare for them. Hopefully you haven’t started calling your exes or being deliberately passive aggressive with your friends or something else that could pressurize under full retrograde.
The retrograde itself usually feels like a very sudden slow-down in time. The station date for this period is April 9th. This is the time when you have to be the most careful and during which time the most “classically Mercury” things go down — the lost tickets, the smashed phone, sending a sext to your boss, etc. But you have to stay calm, remember — it’s during this time that you are most likely to overreact and make a situation worse before the opportunity to repair it has presented itself. That’s how Mercury retrograde gets you.
Shadow period 2 is not-quite-normal yet — the energy is still very much around. But this is the time when revelation and clarification tend to occur, and the knots start to untangle themselves. It begins when retrograde ends (May 3rd this time) and continues for several weeks until equilibrium returns (May 20th.)
Let’s talk about this retrograde’s chart.
Each sign that Mercury moves through during any part of the year, including retrograde, is going to describe some of the issues that are more likely to come up at the time.
Since we know this is an earth sign, this retrograde is going to have you taking a look at what you value. This could be material and physical or more abstractly about “your values.” Taurus rules “money-in, money-out” — basic cash flow — and our comforts. On a secondary level, it also talks about how needs and desires, based on what’s important to us.
Usually, astrologers are like “purchase nothing during Mercury retrograde” and I feel like that’s often not a fair warning. Venus tends to be the planet that rules possessions and money, so I find people tend to have more of an urge to overspend or make a bad investment during Venus’s weak periods. Welp, Venus is also retrograde right now, and additionally, the sign that Mercury is moving through is Venus-ruled, so this like the one Merc retro period for which I will wholeheartedly cosign that advice. If you need to deal with purchases or sourcing for work or another big project, it’s fine to continue the project, but be super precise about the expectations you have for the work you’re looking to get done. Any ambiguity in terms of measurements, materials and qualities, return policies — take your time and iron out the details before you do something irreversible. In an earthy sign with weakened Venus energy, you don’t want Mercury to trick you into sinking your money somewhere it shouldn’t have gone. Be extremely careful and proactive about money matters and possible scams — I know it’s scary, but check your balances regularly and frequently.
Sometimes, life happens, and you find yourself having to make a big decision during Mercury retrograde. That’s okay. This isn’t about refraining from pertinent activities, it’s a reminder to dot your i’s, cross your t’s, and keep all the receipts. I’ve signed a lease during Mercury retrograde and the effect is less “this place in an unlivable horror and I need to get out immediately” and more “wow, I needed to move suddenly and I totally should have double-checked that we included our verbal agreement about x in the written lease. I should probably talk to the landlord about that when retrograde is over.”
Because this is an earth sign, it’s also not a huge warning sign of complete technological meltdown, but it can be a time when communications that are mediated through technology suffer from petty faults. It is never a bad time to back up your data and hang on to a copy or a screenshot of something for a little longer than you might usually. It is also a time when relationships mediated online can suffer from ambiguity or miscommunication.
One last little practical thing: money. Like the other earth signs, Taurus is more deeply connected to finances and possessions than other parts of the zodiac. For that reason, expect erraticism and prepare for it by being smart. Mercury’s effects don’t always look awful, but they can be “revealed” to be disadvantageous later. If a “mercurial” person ends up getting some extra money to you out the blue, don’t rush to spend it before you know you’re secure. If you’re expecting money, remember that retrograde is a slow period, especially with Venus impaired too. Keep up on your communications and expectations of payment, but try to give yourself a budgetary cushion.
When it comes to taking on a new contract under retrograde periods, it’s very important to look at the circumstances. Taurus is a sign that’s all about groundedness, so with retrograde energy, it can feel like the ground isn’t fully rooted. You can often expect “final decisions” made under Mercury retrograde to end up reversed — often due to miscommunication issues. That’s why you always hear to be careful about jumping headfirst into something new. The exception is when you are entering a project that is a return to something you have already moved on from or abandoned. Mercury rewards looking backwards at this time, so yes, take a vacation if it’s back to a place you haven’t been in awhile, reconnect. Yes, make that call about picking up the idea you hadn’t been able to juggle six months ago if it’s feeling really right now.
Towards the end of its motion, Mercury will briefly revisit the last part of Aries. Its prior trip through this area, it got itself all tangled up in a really tough astro-dynamic called a T-square. We’ll talk about this in your personal horoscopes, but the beginning period of the retrograde is going to be all about power and personal relationships, then resolving to a clearing out of that baggage when Mercury comes back to that point. For the duration of the entire period, you could be considering dropping something important to you in exchange for something you really wanted. Be sensitive and open to the possibility that you could be misreading the motives of other people at this time, for better or worse. Don’t be naive, but don’t assume the worst.