Where Do You Find Mom and Dad In a Chart? The Parental Axis

by Marilyn Muir, LPMAFA

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An area of astrological confusion lies in the parental roles of the 4th/10th axis of a chart. Authorities disagree and everyone has their own theory, but absolutes can elude us as we encounter exceptions to our own rules. I tried out many concepts myself over my years of study as I encountered the material of so many astrologers, but kept coming back to what was logical and could be easily proven through the normal working of the chart. My conclusions after so much trial and error became my reading and teaching tools because they made sense and were flexible enough to allow for the exceptions that I was sure to encounter.

I have studied astrology for a very long time. Like everything else human, there are lots of personal opinions, conflicting information and contradictory authors. Some of those can give you whiplash as your mind fights to comprehend the contradiction, argument or paradox created. One of those areas of variance is where do you find Mom and Dad in the chart and which parent is represented in the parental axis houses, the 4th and the 10th. This particular conflict has existed for many decades and even centuries. If the masters don’t agree, how do we as students form conclusions for our own work? I decided to use logic to see if it would prove itself in experience.

My favorite way to reason my way through something like this is to start with our “knowns,” those areas that make sense, don’t have as much contradiction, and seem to work on a consistent basis. In this instance we will look at the houses themselves first. In the Tropical Placidus system I am using, the numbering of houses begins with the ascendant and moves counter-clockwise (widdershins) through the wheel sequentially. The ascendant is the cusp of the 1st house, moving downward on the wheel of houses to the Immum Coeli (IC) which is the cusp of the 4th house, then moving upward on the wheel to the descendant (opposite the ascendant, 7th house), moving still upward to the midheaven (MC) as the cusp of the 10th house, then moving downward to complete the circle of houses at the ascendant. Twelve houses equally divided into quadrants (4).

The ascendant is where we enter the stage so houses 1, 2, and 3 on the left side of the chart are intensely personal: I am (1), I need (2), I communicate (3). We branch out at the cusp of the 4th from “I” to “others” on the right side of the chart and who we are now has to take into account “others” and our interaction with those others. That is true of all six houses (4-9) on the right side of the chart. The remaining three houses (10-12) are on the left side of the chart again, and join the first three houses in “I-ness). Left side “I”, right side “others”. The bottom six houses are internal and introspective. The top six houses are external and objective. (I’ve just defined hemispheres for you for free). Back to houses: Each of those angles are major points of change of experience, from the purely “I” (1st house) to the encounter with “other” (4th house), to the purely “you” or “we” (7th house), to the achievement and eventual return to the purely “I” (10th house). I hope at this point you can see that there is a natural progression here and that we develop gradually through the arenas of physical and psychological experience. The 4th/10th axis and their houses represent our parents. Which one is which?

The 4th house itself represents home, hearth, family, where we go deepest (IC) in subjectivity, the womb (this should be a good clue), the dark warm cave, our first sense of security (4/10 is the security axis), our rooted-ness, genetics; this is intensely personal, part of the subjective-developing houses (1-6).

The 10th house itself represents achievement, goals, stature, mission, where we reach out the most (MC) in objectivity, the mountain we climb to accomplish, success or failure for some, where we know how to “make it” or we don’t. It is the other half of the security axis – externalized, objectivity-developing houses (7-12).

Just by looking at what the house traditionally represents, it gives us a clue as to which parent belongs there. In a general sense that would indicate the IC and its house would more closely indicate the mother, cocoon, family values, nurturing parent, the hub around which families are built. The MC and its house look more like the parent who expects more of us and who prepares us for the outside world and its demands. This parent should teach us how to achieve potential success (if they know how to achieve it themselves). The concept or role is that one provides internal security while the other prepares you for external security.

But life does not always flow ideally does it? Role reversal is possible. Not all moms are nurturing and not all dads know how to succeed in business. Not all parents cooperate in their roles, have the skills, the motivation, the caring and the support individually or as a team. Some parents get to do it all, some are totally neglectful, some are just plain mean, and some are over-achievers. Parenting is truly a thorough mix of tradition, non-tradition, capacity, motivation, and application. Logic can take us this far, but the roles of the parents are not always clearly defined in traditional terms. What I came down to in my own readings was a verbal description for my client of how I saw each parent individually in their chart and to ask my client to place each parent correctly, because it is not a description of a person, it is a description of a role. I am not an astrologer to ask questions of the client and then roll their answers back to them as a reading. I have no problem clearly defining the two roles and allowing the client to place them. Works for me!

Can we make a somewhat flexible rule as to the traditional roles that parents play, allowing for uniqueness and individuality in non-traditional applications? I think that’s okay as well. This is a ‘normally it acts this way’, but ‘occasionally we find the exception’ thinking. All life contains exceptions, paradoxes, contradictions and anomalies, and we are just allowing for that up front.

Who is the first parent you encounter as a newborn child? Personal and subjective, moving from I to other. Is it your mother or your father? There will always be exceptions, choose normal.

I have an excellent personal example of the complexity of reading the parental roles.  My dad got to play both roles when my mother died and he became both father and mother. My dad was a good man, a farmer, and a construction worker with no idea how to succeed any other way and therefore taught me to work hard, earn my keep, be loyal to my boss, etc. That is what he understood about success, which is what he taught his children. His whole life was his family, his kids and his personal circle: Mom, sisters, brothers, etc. He would do anything for any of us. He “mothered” all of us instinctively. My mother died early but while she was alive, she was a typical Broadway stage mother, wanted me to be a little Judy Garland or any other Hollywood child success story. She strove for our success and did everything in her power to bring us into the limelight of the late 40s.

Astrologically I have Pisces on the MC with co-ruler Neptune in the 4th, and co-ruler Jupiter in the 9th conjunct the Moon, Virgo on the IC, ruler Mercury in the 6th. What is the translation?

  • My mother was the dreamer Pis/MC, rulers Nep in the 4th and Jup in the 9th joining the Moon.
  • My father was the practical person Vir/IC, ruler in the 6th.
  • My father became both father and mother upon my mother’s death: Pis/MC, ruler Nep/4th (4th/10th association).

This is one very good example of a jigsaw puzzle piece fitting into an astrology chart.

Please be aware that the 4th/10th axis is just one piece to the reading of parents in a chart. Aside from my single example of a parent occupying both houses, no mention has been made of the planets in either the 4th or 10th house. This discussion has been about the axis itself and how the parents can be read from that axis. Any planet in the 4th or the 10th must be added to the material developed for the parent described by that house. It adds to the flavor of the description, enlarges or enhances and gives you more detail.

The two lights, the Sun and Moon, are traditionally given parental designation as well, the Moon for the mother, the Sun for the father. And, just to confuse the issue, Saturn is frequently used for the father. While these may contribute to your reading of each parent, it does not help us determine the 4th/10th parent, so it is a subject for another day. 

And as if that wouldn’t do it for the parental axis choice, this might change as we move from a newborn infant taking its first breath with a set of parents, to a fully grown adult with the same but somehow different parents. Life changes us through experience – all of us, including our parents. Their role has the possibility of changing just as all of life does. The identification process we use for our concept of our parents is also constantly changing. Ask any teenager; I’m reasonably sure you were one of those at one time yourself. We grow through living, hopefully in a progressive and evolutionary way, but not always, like an onion growing from the inside out. Our core is our natal pattern, at our very center, and experience adds itself like layers on the outside as we grow and become. We will all view life differently as this happens, including our concept of our parents. 

Originally published on All Things Healing website Jan 2011, republished with slight editing.

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