Monday, February 7, 2011

Is the Semi-Sextile a Good Aspect or a Bad One?

©2009 by Donna Cunningham, MSW

Guest Writer, Round Blog-In

Have you read or been taught much about the semi-sextile?  I’m guessing that you haven’t—in most astrology writings, it tends to get shrugged off as a minor aspect after a half-hearted sentence or two of description. 

It’s a 30° aspect, plus or minus 2-3°. For instance, a planet in Aries may form a semi-sextile to a planet at approximately the same degree of either of the two adjacent signs, Pisces or Taurus. 

Briefly, the aspect involves planets in neighboring signs. But are they good neighbors or bad? That is to say, are they harmonious or at odds, do they support each other or bicker, and do they bolster each other’s efforts or sabotage them?

My answer is: all of the above…depending on the signs and planets involved. There aren’t really any good or bad aspects, you know—just evolved and unevolved ways of using the two planets in the combination. The ultimate effect depends on the choices you make about how to use them at any given moment. 

However, I’ve been watching semi-sextiles in my own life and the lives of friends and clients for 40 years, and for the most part I like them. The good traits of one of the signs can usually offset the less than wonderful traits of the other, especially if we learn to use them consciously. I have several in my chart, and they tend to pull me back off the ledge when I’m about to bungee dive into the worst qualities of the signs involved.

Two of my four are in Gemini-Cancer, so let me tell you what I like about that combination. Gemini can too often be glibly cerebral, and when I get that way about something that’s going on, Cancer reminds me of the emotions I’m glossing over.

On the other hand, one of Cancer’s worst traits is to be hypersensitive and to take someone else’s remarks too personally, then withdraw in injured silence. Gemini teaches to me laugh at myself nd communicate with the person about what was meant. All too often, they didn’t mean what I thought they did, but were off on some track of their own.

Here’s a full list of signs that are semi-sextile to one another, so you can check for this aspect in your own chart. Remember, the degree numbers of the planets should be no more than 2-3° apart. For example, a planet at 23° of Libra could be semi-sextile to planets between 20-26° of either Virgo or Scorpio. If you have a chart with the aspects printed out, look for the symbol shown at the side. 

 What about some other next-door-neighbor signs?  

Aries’ powerful urge to take action can offset Taurus’ typical inertia, but Taurus’ patience in bringing things to fruition can counteract Aries’ impulsive tendency to abandon projects when they don’t get immediate results. Pisces’ compassion can temper Aries warlike qualities, while Aries can provide the initiative to realize Pisces visions.

Libra can tone down Virgo’s criticisms and deliver those essentially well-intentioned corrections with a spoonful of honey. On the other hand, Virgo’s discriminating analyses can offset Libra’s tendencies to fall for a pretty face and charming line. 

Sagittarius can lend optimism to Scorpio’s cynical outlook, but Scorpio can discern what’s really going on underneath that charismatic new guru’s message that Sag is prone to take on faith.  Capricorn’s capacity to create structures, and administer them, can take Aquarius’ theories out of the ivory tower and into the planning stage.

Did you notice how many cans there were in the examples given above? Can presupposes that only one of the signs is showing its rotten side at the moment, and that the other sign is trying to help them evolve out of the murk and mire. What would happen if both signs were taking the lower path? To be perfectly fair, these two signs can also aid and abet each other in mayhem if the combination is misused.

Perfect example: With my Cancer/Gemini semi-sextiles, before I got so bloody evolved, I was capable of firing off some fairly devastating written commentaries to people who offended me. I’d detail what they did, why I was so deeply wounded by it, exactly what sort of worthless human being they were, and what they could do with themselves from here on out.

And I allowed no comeback—this was in those dimly-remembered days when people still wrote letters rather than emails.  Any written reply was returned marked “refused delivery.” No exaggeration. Nope, you wouldn’t have wanted to receive one of those poison pen letters of mine. After a LOT of work on myself, I foreswore that behavior quite some time ago. (It also helped when my progressed Mercury moved into Libra.)

Still, when the positive qualities of both signs are carefully cultivated, next-door-neighbor signs like these can prop one another up like good neighbors do in real life. A solid sense of respect for your own and other people’s boundaries is part of what makes the difference with this aspect, as in so many other areas.  Be guided by what Robert Frost wrote: “Good fences make good neighbors.”

Incidentally, folks, my series of articles about aspects that ran in The Mountain Astrologer in 2008-9 is now available as an e-booklet, Aspect Analysis. It’s designed to teach the nuts and bolts of analyzing aspects–the real building blocks of chart interpretation, whether you’re studying natal, transits, chart comparison, mundane, electional, or horary.

Now that I’m done sharing what I’ve garnered about semi-sextiles over the years, here are some additional perspectives on this aspect found in an internet search today: 
  • Annie Heese at Cafe Astrology delineates tons of examples—a quality sadly lacking in most writings about this aspect.

  •  Semi-Sextile from AstroDienst’s AstroWiki

  •  Semi-sextile from a collection of articles on aspects at

  •  In AdZe’s Classroom

  •  Rhudyar lovers will be interested to know that there are actually a pair of distinctly different semi-sextiles, as articulated by Michael R. Meyer: the waxing aspect and the waning aspect. (Of Virgo’s two semi-sextiles, the sign afterward–Libra–would be the waxing one and the sign before–Leo–would be the waning one.)
Completely unrelated but a find anyway at Wikimedia Commons is this collection of astrological aspect symbols available to use as graphics:    The semi-sextile glyph used here is from that collection.

More Articles from the Series about the Lesser-Known Aspects
Photo Credit: © Madartists |

About the Author: Donna Cunningham, MSW is an internationally-respected author of books, articles, and columns about astrology, flower essences and other metaphysical topics. Her insights reflect her dual background in astrology and psychotherapy. She has a Master’s degree in Social Work from Columbia University and over 40 years of experience in working with people. Her ebooks can be found at Moon Maven Publications Visit her blog, Sky Writer.

Auntie Joyce's recent humor post, Love Thy Neighbor, was all about semi-sextile neighbors. You might want to revisit it with Donna's insights in mind. It might be even funnier the second time around!


Mandi Lockley said...

I think my Moon Aquarius-Sun Capricorn semi-sextile is a really good combination, well it certainly works for me and like you say, the earthy Sun gives a bit of focus and structure to the Moon and to what is otherwise a very airy chart.

Joyce Mason said...

I like that, Mandi. I may have mentioned in comments to another post, my adoptive parents and I were born 3 cusps in a row (Leo, Virgo, Libra), so I semi'ed their sextile! I did feel like the Light between their Suns in many ways. We all adored one another. My Sun semi-sextiled each of theirs. Trippy! Worked for us.