Therese Hamilton

Part 3

The Four Trigons

Now that we’ve seen how sign polarity is defined in the sidereal zodiac, it’s time to look at the sign triplicities or trigons as they were called in ancient Hellenistic mes. Dividing the signs into four triangles of three signs each dates back to Persian and Seleucid periods in Babylonia where each of the trigons was related to one of the four winds. These triangles passed into the Hellenistic system, and came to be labeled for the four elements--fire, earth, air and water. Before that time the elements were given to the signs in an irregular way. Aquarius, for example, was a water sign, matching the “watery” stars of the constellation.

So we see that the trigons are very old, going back almost as far as our first records of the zodiac in Mesopotamia. Like everything else in astrology, the trigons developed meanings far beyond the simple mathematical principle of four groups of three signs each. Over the years Tropical astrologers have added various psychological characteristics to each trigon. These meanings have sometimes been adopted by Jyotish astrologers, but are generally ignored by Western siderealists.

A certain harmony has always been assumed to exist between the three signs of each trigon. In the tropical zodiac the traits given to each trigon/element are similar to what might be called the “mood” or tone of the signs as we generally observe them. The fire signs are said to be “fiery,” in expression, for example, while the earth signs are said to be solid and practical, because we think of the earth as physically firm in comparison to the other elements.

Since the characteristics of each sign trigon are completely different in the two zodiacs, it eliminates confusion in the sidereal zodiac if each trigon is simply named for the first zodiacal sign in each three sign grouping. As planets must actually be in a sign to show how that sign operates, it’s easiest to understand the trigons by studying horoscopes of people who have planetary groupings or stelliums in the various signs. We can begin with the Aries trigon.

THE ARIES TRIGON (Tropical Earth)

This trigon of signs—Aries, Leo and Sagittarius—represents the ability to deal with the physical world in the sidereal zodiac. This first trigon aligns with the tropical earth signs, since they are located in the same zodiacal area as those signs. (Except for the 5-7 degree lag due to the ayanamsa.) Let’s take the tropical definition of earth:

These signs are said to be oriented toward the physical world and practical affairs. Tropical earth works well with objects and anything that is physically concrete. Direct sensory experience is important to these signs. They can get to the heart of a matter quickly and act appropriately. Their special skills lie in working directly with actual physical objects and practical goals and concerns. These signs are neither abstract nor emotional, but prefer action with results they can easily see.

This description belongs to the Aries trigon in the Sidereal zodiac. The most important key phrase for this trigon is probably practical concerns which require action to produce a result. The lords of the Aries trigon are all traditional masculine planets: Mars, Sun and Jupiter. Any action first requires a mental act of will. A thought is formed in the mind and the person carries out the direction given by the mind.

Mind or will power transforms one type of matter to another. So people who have key planets in this most masculine of the trigons will use will power and determination to accomplish their goals. They won’t let emotional worries get in the way of accomplishment. They won’t meander along philosophical byways or waste time dealing with theories. They will mentally create the opportunities they need for results—to literally transform the physical world to suit their desires. This trigon is especially important in the charts of sports champions and business tycoons where intense concentration and determination leads to success.


Sidereal Aries, Leo, Sagittarius

ARIES: Dale Earnhardt, American Race Car Champion

In the sidereal zodiac Dale Earnhardt has an Aries Sun, Mercury and Mars conjunct an Aries midheaven. As a champion Earnhardt was relentless, hard charging, aggressive and determined. He was known as a driver who would never give up. Earnhardt’s success was based on a powerful will that refused to take ?no’ for an answer. Dale Earnhardt fully utilized the energy of fiery Mars, lord of Aries in his chosen passion, and the exalted Sun in the 10th took him to the top of his profession.

LEO: William Harrah, American Gambling Czar

William Harrah was the founder of Harrah’s Casinos in Reno and Lake Taho, NV, the world’s second largest gambling operation. Harrah had Scorpio rising at birth with the Sun and Mercury in Leo in the 10th house. Saturn and Rahu (added motivation to reach the heights) in Aries gives more emphasis to this trigon. Harrah always aimed for the biggest and best and was known to hate to waste time on trivial formalities. Unlike Dale Earnhardt, who used his Aries energy to create his own personal racing myth, Harrah became a Leonian Czar, a solar king of the gambling realm he created with single-minded determination.

SAGITTARIUS: John Z. De Lorean, founder of the De Lorean Motor Company

John De Lorean worked his way up from engineer to the head of General Motor’s Chevrolet division to the founding of his own company, formed to manufacture his uniquely designed sports car. DeLorean has Pisces rising at birth with its lord Jupiter in Sagittarius in the 10th conjunct Mercury and the Sun. He used the will-directed energy of the Aries trigon to found his own corporation, one expression of sidereal Sagittarius (Tropical Capricorn). Whereas Aries is generally its own star and Leo sets itself up as a director or head with authority over others, Sagittarius represents structure for a specific purpose. De Lorean used this Sagittarian energy to found a company to manufacture a specific automobile. De Lorean dealt with power and a great deal of money, both coming under the rulership of Jupiter, lord of Sagittarius.

THE GEMINI TRIGON (Tropical Water)

The signs opposite to the Aries Trigon belong to the Gemini Trigon--Gemini, Libra and Aquarius. These signs are the polar opposite of physical world concerns and can best be labeled psychic or intuitive. This trigon of signs occupies the same sky area as the tropical water signs--Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces. Looking at the tropical definition of water:

This element perceives through feeling or a state of “non- thought.” In Horoscope Symbols, Robert Hand calls these signs “non-linear and non-rational ” (p. 189). Tropical water signs are said to excel at empathy because they can feel what others feel. In many instances, water can “become” the other person in an intuitive sense. This sets the stage for psychic perception, and water people are perhaps the best equipped for natural psychism.

Water people don’t cope well with a disturbing psychic environment, because they quickly sense the vibrations of environments and people. This is no doubt the root cause of their tendency to withdraw into their own inner worlds. Water people can appear to be quite unsocial, and can have a lot of trouble putting their intuitive perceptions into words. As might be expected from this psychic trigon of signs, some Tropical writers have said that this element is difficult to understand.

A person’s quality of psychic energy—a product of the emotions and mind—cannot be perceived with the normal senses; it isn’t visible on the physical plane. This is exactly what sensitive people feel from others: an energy essence which cannot be seen with the naked eye, touched with the hands, or otherwise experienced through the physical senses. Our thoughts and feelings are present as undercurrents or ?vibrations,’ which are felt so easily by psychics. The sidereal signs of Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius are appropriately placed in direct opposition to the Aries trigon signs—Aries, Leo and Sagittarius—all of which see the physical world as something to be coped with and conquered.

Many planets in the sidereal Gemini trigon will pre-dispose a person to a quiet, perhaps reclusive life, often with spiritual emphasis. This trigon is good for psychic or intuitive work, such as counseling.


Sidereal Gemini, Libra, Aquarius

GEMINI: Serge LeClaire, French Neuropsychiatrist and Psychoanalyst

Working in the world of psychiatry, LeClaire has followed this trigon’s emphasis on internal psychic functions. Virgo rises in his horoscope with its lord Mercury in the 10th in Gemini conjunct the Sun, Pluto and Venus in the same sign. Uranus, Mars and Ketu (the Moon’s south node) are trine this stellium from Aquarius. Saturn is in the third trigon sign, Libra. LeClaire has held prestigious positions in his field (Sun in 10th). He used Mercury’s easy expression in Gemini in his psychological studies, as a therapist, and in authoring books on his professional specialty.

LIBRA: Maha Guru Metta, Indonesian Spiritual Teacher

Metta was born with Taurus rising. The ascendant lord Venus is in Libra conjunct the Sun, Mars and Mercury. Ketu (the Moon’s south node—renunciation) is in the 10th house in a second sign of this trigon, Aquarius. Metta follows the spiritual path of Sufi or the Bahai religion, and is recognized as a guru within this tradition. As the exaltation sign of Saturn and the fall of the Sun, Metta lived the spiritual side of Libra.

AQUARIUS: Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Indian Mystic

Ramakrishna is respected worldwide as a mystic of the highest caliber. At birth the Sun, Moon and Mercury were in Aquarius, and noted Indian astrologers place his ascendant there as well. Ramakrishna is known for his simplicity, wisdom and the effortless ability to enter the inner mystical state. He lived a simple life in India with only the desire for God and no interest in fame, fortune or the usual trappings of the world. The ancient lord of Aquarius, Saturn, is related to renunciation of the world in India, while Uranus—often said to be the ruler of Aquarius—is the planet of psychic (inner plane) experience.


This sidereal trigon—Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn—represents the mind and its expression, which generally manifests as a love of theory, ideas and verbal interchange. Tropical astrologers know that their corresponding air signs are mental:

Tropical air signs are associated with the mind and thinking. They are said to have a strong social quality and enjoy exchanging ideas with others. They communicate through writing and speech and are very good at connecting with others. They often have many friends, but seem to remain emotionally detached.

This trigon might be considered non-intuitive. In order to express a thought literally in words, feelings or experiences must be made into concrete symbols in speech or writing. Something is always lost in this process. Can you really describe the taste of an orange in words to someone who has never before tasted an orange? We might try through association, a keyword of this trigon. Mercury, those rulership and exaltation belong to Virgo, the second sign of this trigon, rules mathematics, which by its very nature, must be expressed in precise concrete terms. Anyone who has worked with computers, which function solely on mathematical principles, knows how unforgiving the computer is if even one small symbol is typed incorrectly.

The expression of this sidereal trigon is distinctly mental, communicative and connecting. Planets in this trigon open the door for interest in literature, conversation, or other types of communication. Reading and writing, newscasting, any occupation that makes use of the spoken or written word comes under this trigon. The social Moon is exalted in the first sign of this trigon, Taurus, and the Moon must be strong in a horoscope if the public pulse is to be touched through writing and communication.


Sidereal Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn

TAURUS: Thomas Hardy, British Writer and Poet

Hardy was born with Venus, Mercury, Mars and the Sun in sidereal Taurus. Neptune trined these planets from Capricorn, a second sign of this trigon. Hardy is known as a distinguished poet (the poetic Moon is exalted in Taurus) and one of England’s greatest late Victorian novelists. After an attempt to enter the architectural field failed, Hardy dedicated himself to the writing profession. Author of many novels and poems, his Far from the Madding Crowd is considered to be a masterpiece. The symbolism of Venus, lord of Taurus, figured in several of his novels while writing itself as an artistic form comes under Venus.

VIRGO: Edward William Bok, Writer and Editor

Bok was born with Taurus rising with the ascendant lord Venus in Virgo along with Saturn, Mars, Sun and Mercury. He was the editor-in-chief of Ladies Home Journal for 30 years and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his autobiography, The Americanization of Edward Bok. Bok fully expressed Virgo’s promise in the field of communication and literature. His Virgo Mercury (a perfect placement for superior editing) was reinforced by the conjunction of four other planets.

CAPRICORN: Clint Black, American Country Singer, Writer and Actor

Clint Black was born with Leo rising with the tremendous 1962 stellium in Capricorn: Mars, Saturn, Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Ketu and Jupiter. He utilized the Taurus trigon’s ability to communicate with the public through music, acting and writing, winning a large collection of country music awards in the process along with several gold and triple platinum records. As a sign, the connecting and communication skills of Capricorn are often expressed in the world of music.


In astrology the expressive emotional function belongs to the tropical fire signs. In the sidereal zodiac the emotional function is linked to the Cancer trigon—Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces. Looking at the tropical definition of fire:

Tropical fire signs are said to be full of energy and enthusiasm. They act impulsively without thinking first. Gut feeling is used for judgment rather than cool logic. These signs tend to push their way through life and are often unstable. They often dislike commitment, and don’t want to be pinned down. They are very prone to change. They have a dramatic, intense quality and appear to others to be very emotional. They freely express joy, anger, love, hate and other emotions. These signs are very expressive in relationships and like the physical expression of hugging and touching. Comfortable with varied experiences, they tend to change relationships frequently, often without realizing they have left the forsaken partner emotionally stranded.

This trigon relates to the emotions and sensory experience, a reaching out to the stimuli around us. We relate to each other and to the outside world through the senses. We reach out and explore new experiences, let our eyes rest on those we love, hold hands (touch), listen to each other (sound), enjoy the sights and scents of nature together as well as the various types of sexual relationships. This trigon would be lost at sea, so to speak, in trying to understand the psychic and non-physical way that the Gemini trigon experiences life.

Venus was one of the ancient Hellenistic rulers of this trigon. This is entirely appropriate since Venus is the planet through which we express our love for each other in sensory and emotional ways. In Indian astrology, Venus has much to do with sexual relationships, and this trigon is probably the most physically sexual of all the trigons.

Venus is said to be of variegated color in both the Indian and ancient Western astrological systems, and this reflects the ever changing emotional moods of this trigon. Venus finds its exaltation in the third water sign of Pisces, an emotional and volatile sign, represented by two fishes swimming in different directions. (Remember that in the tropical zodiac, sidereal Pisces is the often erratic Aries, which overlays the actual constellation of the fishes.). Planets in this sidereal trigon of are wonderful for the moods and emotions needed in the dramatic arts and music, or in any setting where emotional expression is required.

So, no matter what names are used—sidereal Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces or tropical Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius, these signs are outgoing, emotionally expressive, and seek stimulation through the senses. They easily become bored and welcome variety and change. In Hellenistic astrology, Mars was the primary lord of this trigon, and as we see in the examples below, this trigon produces emotional passion and the activists of the zodiac.


Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces

CANCER and SCORPIO: Bette Midler, Singer, Actress and Comedienne

Bette Midler was born with Pisces rising with Mercury, Sun and Venus in Scorpio and Saturn, Mars and Pluto in Cancer. Midler’s uninhibited and brassy humor, a full expression of the Cancer trigon, became her trademark. She also shared this trigon’s passion for causes in her dedication to raising money for AIDS research and her work as an ecological activist.

SCORPIO: James Edward Groppi, Priest and Social Activist

Groppi used the passion of Mars-ruled Scorpio to lead demonstrations against injustices in the turbulent 60s. He led hundreds of marches for open housing and Civil Rights. Groppi was born with Venus, Mercury and the Sun in Scorpio in the 10th trined by Mars from a second sign of this trigon, Cancer. Gropi further used the Martian energy of this sign by protesting Vietnam and the draft. He broke with the church in 1976 and followed the natural draw of the senses of this trigon by later marrying and having children.

PISCES: Mark Fiedler, American Keyboard and Trombone Player

Mark Fiedler was born with Libra rising with ascendant lord Venus in Pisces conjunct the Sun, Mercury and Mars. He utilized Pisces as the exaltation of artistic Venus in the world of music, and the changing nature of the trigon by taking many varied jobs at different times in his life. The almost compulsive activity of the Cancer trigon was expressed in his activities as a rock climber, daredevil and physical fitness buff.


Sign trigons do seem to be related to how we experience the world around us, and they provide the general psychological background for the action of the planets. Sign trigons predispose us to certain kinds of activity based on how we perceive the world. Astrologers know that planets are always more important than sign characteristics and traits. However, the sign trigons that contain the Sun or Moon, important dispositors, or a stellium of planets will take on greater importance in the horoscope.

A Final Question About Zodiacs

A question that naturally comes to mind is, “If the meanings of the signs don’t really change in the sidereal zodiac, but simply have different names, why bother with another zodiac anyway?” The answer is simple: Each sign has a planetary lord and each planet has a planetary dispositor (the planet that rules the sign where that planet is placed in the horoscope). If a person has planets in tropical Scorpio, astrologers will look to Mars and/or Pluto as the dispositor. The situation of Mars will be entirely different from that of Venus, which disposits these planets in Libra in the sidereal zodiac. Does Mars or Venus describe the behavior and attitudes of your client, your friend, your mother, brother or lover?

The tremendous emphasis on signs in contemporary tropical astrology has placed he all-important planets in the back seat. We need the backdrop of the signs to point the actions of the planets in the right direction, but we’ve increasingly sacrificed planetary meanings on the alter of the zodiacal signs. And what has happened? We’re looking for new rulers for the Tropical signs because the old rulers don’t fit anymore.

Have we looked at the possibility that the traditional planetary rulers may fit the sidereal signs like the proverbial glove? We haven’t done this because up to this time we haven’t understood the nature of the sidereal signs. Many sidereal astrologers have tried to make them into carbon copies of the tropical signs, which is not only inaccurate, but counteracts sound reason.

One problem that exists because we do happen to have two different zodiacs is the uneven overlap between the tropical and sidereal zodiacs. At present the tropical and sidereal zodiacs don’t precisely line up with each other. Depending on which ayanamsa (the tropical-sidereal conversion factor) astrologers use and the year of a person’s birth, the tropical and sidereal signs are between 5 and 7 degrees out of alignment from each other.

This means that the final degrees of the tropical signs overlap the sidereal signs of the same name. The end of tropical Aries, for example, overlaps the sidereal sign of Aries, but sidereal Aries resembles tropical Taurus. If the sidereal zodiac is valid, the final degrees of tropical signs should behave more like the following tropical sign. Conversely, if the tropical zodiac really exists (and the sidereal zodiac is simply a myth), the first several degrees of the sidereal signs should behave like the preceding sidereal sign.

If zodiac signs alternate between behavioral poles, then these patterns are going to “miss” either at the beginning of sidereal signs or at the ends of tropical signs. This “miss,” then, would be a critical key to the zodiac. All of us can start paying attention to the last few degrees of the tropical signs as well as the early degrees of the sidereal signs. Do these degree areas resemble the rest of the sign (that is, do planets behave in a similar manner to the rest of the sign in these degrees), or do they seem to be taking on the behavioral patterns of the following sign (tropical) or the preceding sign (sidereal)? The final key to the zodiac—if indeed there is only one “real” zodiac—is in the hands of each one of us.

All birth data and biographical information in this article is taken from the Rodden-McDonough AstroDatabase, version 3, 1993. All birth data is Rodden classified as A or AA. More details may be obtained by consulting the computerized database.

© 2003 East-West Publishing, Therese Hamilton; all rights reserved

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