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Imagine being aware of the specific lessons you are here to learn from your relationships. Though understanding doesn’t take problems away, it does give you a helping hand when it comes to negotiating the maze of human relating.

If you have a basic birth chart, you can learn all about your relationship “school” just by understanding the Ascendant (first house) and Descendant (7th house) axis.

The Ascendant (ASC)

The ascendant is the sign rising on the horizon at the moment of our birth — it’s the first house. This is why a location and birth time is crucial in casting an accurate birth chart. Often called the rising sign, this sign provides information about what our incarnational intent is and how we filter and project our energies into the world.

Daniel Giamario, pioneer of the Shamanic Astrology system, eloquently speaks to the function of the ascendant as the “personal identity project,” or the archetype we have chosen to work with in this lifetime.

The Descendant (DSC)

The DSC is opposite the ASC — it comprises the 7th house, or the relationship house. In the Shamanic system, the 7th house is the doorway over which we step to engage in relationships. The sign ruling this house describes our unconscious, karmic mission that drives our interpersonal connections. Giamario’s word for this is the “partnership project.”

Thinking of our relationships and identity in terms of a project implies that it’s something we work toward, rather than perfect or even finish.

The Relationship Axis in Action

Let’s look at a real world example of how to work with these two elements.

Jen was a longtime client of mine, but she’d never had an astrological chart reading done with me. “Well, I had a zodiac reading once,” she said. “Isn’t that enough?”

I responded that every person has a different approach, and I asked if I could take a look. “You have big questions about your relationship with your husband, I’m sure we can get more clarity looking at your chart.”

Jen hadn’t heard of the concept I’m describing, and she was interested. I drew up her chart and found that she had Aquarius on the ascendant, making Leo (it’s opposite) the descendant. We had access to her husband Avery’s chart too, and we found that he had Capricorn on the ASC and Cancer on the DSC.

So much became clear to me just looking at these simple pieces of the chart!

Jen had a soul that had incarnated to be free, to break the old mores and codes of a rigid society. She had come here to innovate, explore, and create new paradigms. She hadn’t come here to do “normal.” Having an identity project of Aquarius told me this.

Leo on the DSC showed that in relationships she was learning to share power, to understand all the ways that co-dependency with others could manifest. To have the most creative, generous experience of relationships meant that she had to be free to be herself, and to let others be too. The normal models of relationship weren’t going to fly — those based on need and conformity. With this placement, relationships needed to be based on celebrating each other’s uniqueness, rather than promoting the idea of “two becoming one.”

(Giamario believes that this is the overall relationship template for humanity now, and so on a certain level, we are all in this relationship school as a species.)

Jen resonated with this idea. As an entrepreneur devoted to helping women creatives succeed, she thrives on technology, cutting edge techniques, and abolishing her client’s beliefs that limit success.

And, she admitted, in her relationship with Avery she did want his devotion and didn’t want to “share” him, particularly with children. Their conflicting ideas around having kids had brought them to the crux of the relationship crisis they were in now.

Avery, with his Capricorn ASC, had come into this life in order to cultivate responsible “father” energy. His soul’s goal was to build a more sustainable society that others could in turn grow and thrive in. He needed to live practically, with integrity and a commitment to community.

Cancer on his DSC meant that in terms of relationship, his goal/challenge was to create a safe space for others to succeed. The mother archetype was imbued in all his relating — he was intrinsically driven to nurture and sustain others. Of course, this could manifest as co-dependency, and he often did put Jen first in the relationship — which her Leo loved — but was inwardly resentful when his own desires weren’t nurtured.

Avery’s wish to have children had taken him by surprise after his 40th birthday, and so he and Jen were having to negotiate on a huge issue they had previously agreed upon.

Though their individual charts were very different, they were both committed to staying in the relationship. It was important that Jen learn to honor Avery’s nurturing nature and help him by letting him find the community and family he craved, even if it didn’t involve her. In turn, he needed to support her growth and business by letting it be “safe” within their relationship for her to succeed and shine.

For Avery, some deep soul-searching revealed that he didn’t need to have his own children, but he wanted to be involved in fostering the growth of young people on a regular basis. Jen agreed to support him while he changed careers, and he went from CEO of a medium company (where he had fully explored his Capricorn) to being the fundraising director for a non-profit that worked with at-risk kids. He also regularly mentors a child as well. Jen isn’t really involved with his mentoring, but she’s glad for the time he spends away from the relationship feeding his own needs. He then has more to give her as a self-fulfilled person when they’re together.

Keywords for ASC/DSC Combinations

Aries/Libra: Those with these signs on the 1st or 7th houses are here to experience relationships as the path to forming and learning about identity.

Taurus/Scorpio: These signs work with creative and sexual energies and experiencing life force energy through and with another.

Gemini/Sagittarius: The partnership/identity urges are oriented around finding others to adventure and search for the truth with, and relationships that support freedom and space.

Cancer/Capricorn: These signs are committed to community, stability, and family—whatever that word may mean to them.

Leo/Aquarius: This combination is exploring being in relationships with freedom and true interdependency, celebrating each other’s uniqueness and individual goals.

Virgo/Pisces: These signs are devoted to the spiritual path and/or finding their sacred work. Relationships must support a commitment greater than the relationship itself, i.e. a devotion to work or service.

Working with an astrologer or other advisor can help clarify relationship issues. The ASC/DSC  axis is revealing by itself, and it becomes more useful as other astrological information or karmic agreements are layered in. Even relating to family, co-workers, friends, or adversaries can be seen and decoded through the lens of the relationship axis.

If you have a basic birth chart, talk to an advisor on Keen and can learn more about your relationships by understanding the ascendant (first house) and descendant (7th house) axes.