Reception, the Tony Soprano Clause

This is a rather long, but (I believe) entertaining and interesting article on this complicated subject. I would welcome any feedback.

Anyone who has studied astrology for a reasonable length of time will have examples of charts that defy our most stanch inner sceptic. These charts stand as evidence that the connection between the stars and our world is far more mysterious then we imagine. The most fascinating thing about these charts is that their origin can be so ordinary. Coming across one of these charts is like having the magic of life exposed; everything takes on a special glow and it reaffirms the reason we astrologers continue our study long after the realisation that the path to riches, this is not.

When such a chart is encountered the desire is to share it, exposing it to the world and challenging those who would degrade astrology to explain how such beauty and perfection can be dismissed. Recently I came across such a chart; revealing itself to me during my search for a better understanding of receptions, it stands as testimony of the powerful wisdom inherent in astrology. But let me begin at the beginning of this quest.

Encountering Classical Astrology in Modern Times

As the many techniques from our astrological past are being rediscovered and reintegrated into contemporary astrology, terms and labels are often bandied about without a thorough understanding of their meaning. Astrology students are at the mercy of their teachers who have been informed by conflicting texts, some of which were translated by academics with no knowledge or respect for astrology. Consequently our understanding of the terminology of old is pretty confused.

Contemporary astrologers have given new meaning to old terms and have initiated various ways of applying the old techniques. This causes confusion, as certain words come to mean different things to different people. Making matters worse even amongst the old masters there were different opinions, so our modern confusion is understandable. However we should endeavour to understand and agree on the basic meaning of our astrological vocabulary, if only to insure that we do not repeat mistakes like that of assigning rulership to “new” planets, in contravention of the essential system on which astrology was founded.

Recently the words “receive” and “receptions” were discussed in one of my astrology groups. It became evident that there were differing ways of understanding the meaning of this term. As reception is a crucial part of delineation, it important that we are in agreement as to the definition of this word and its application in astrological reading. Researching the meaning of reception has brought home to me the subtle complexity of the whole subject. The problem appears to be that if a planet is in another planet ruling (or exalted) sign there is a reception, but which planet receives and which is received and what does this mean in practical terms?

Receiving and receptions

Nicholas de Vore gives two definitions for “reception” in his “Encyclopedia of Astrology”: (1) A planet posited in a sign not its own, is said to be received by the ruler of that sign, as if one were visitor and the other host. (2) The condition in which a planet is receiving an aspect from a faster moving planet.” According to these definitions a planet can “receive” an aspect from another faster moving planet, it can also be “received” by the ruler(s) of the sign it is in.

The term reception is now commonly used to refer only to relationship between a planet and the ruler of the sign it is in. {There is also reception with the minor dignities of triplicity, term and face, but for the sake of this article I will focus only on rulership and exaltation}. Contemporary astrologers may think that the need for an aspect is superfluous, yet most of the old texts imply the need for planets in reception to be in aspect, or applying to aspect each other before their ingress into a new sign. When there is an aspect, the two planets in reception are interacting or communicating to a far greater degree. Reception allows the potential of an aspect to be fulfilled.

There is some room for interpretation here as an “aspect” in classical times was thought to exist between signs not planets and points. It is fair to say that as long as there is aspect by sign, receptions are active. This still precludes all but the Ptolemaic aspects (sextile, square, trine, opposition and conjunction). Both the semi-sextile (30 degrees) and inconjunct (150 degrees) connect sign with no commonality, which therefore can not see each other.

In the context of a reception through sign or exaltation, the planet “receiving” is the ruler of the sign in which the other “received” planet finds itself. The receiving planet is the host and as such is under obligation to welcome and allow his guest access to his domain, resources and virtue. He also has a responsibility towards his guest; he can do them no harm, even if this would be his natural inclination. The received planet or guest is also bound to support his host or ruler and to help do his bidding.

Reception between planets reflects society’s rules about how we relate to one another. If you are my guest I will not harm you, on the contrary I will welcome you and give you access to my home. It would be very bad form if anything unfortunate were to happen to you whilst you were under my roof.

Rules also apply as to how guests are expected to behave. Generally speaking they will respect their host, heed expectations, offer them help if needed and they will not overstay their welcome. All of this is dependent on the essential character of both host and guest, the more honesty and integrity they have the more they will uphold the terms of their association. The more afflicted they are, the more they will struggle to do the right thing.

Aspects give two planets the means of “seeing” each other and communicating. The type of aspect indicates how harmonious or stressful that communication will be. The closer the aspect the clearer they can hear each other, the better the aspect the more they will agree with each other. When there is reception the planets share common motivations and are inclined to assist each other; the stronger the reception the better they can co-operate to achieve their goals. Planets inconjunct, with no aspect between them can not communicate at all, even if they happen to be in one another’s sign.

Broadly speaking the receiving planet has power over the planet that is received, for it rules the territory in which the received planet finds itself in. The received planet is recognisant of his host and could be said to love him. This exchange of power and affection becomes far more complicated when there is “mutual reception”, the situation that arises when both planets are in each other’s signs.

A Study in Reception

Whether a reception is helpful or a hindrance is dependent on the circumstances present in the chart. It also must be remembered that receptions, aspects and dignity have different implications in different types of chart investigations. Horary and some event charts are of a finite moment in time, where as a natal chart is for the life, so that even the most afflicted planet will by direction, progression and transit shift in time. We need to understand reception in context of the specific chart and not as a cook book panacea.

The best way of illustrating how reception may work is through the use of a chart. As providence would have it while trying to make sense of this subject I was also immersing myself in the fictional world of the “The Sopranos” via the iconic television series created by David Chase. The interaction between some of the characters was very reminiscent of the interaction between planets in reception. I began to imagine the characters as planets in particular sign led by the main character, Tony Soprano as a hypothetical Saturn in Aries.

Before continuing my imaginary casting I decided to have a look at the chart for January 10, 1999 at 9:00 pm the date and time the series’ first aired in America. I set the chart for Newark, New Jersey, the geographical setting for the show. The resulting chart is an interesting study of receptions and a great example of how obliging astrology can be in providing us with the perfect chart for every occasion. As the cast of characters naturally found their assigned planet, led by Tony Soprano, the previously hypothesised Saturn in Aries, I was left in awe at the synchronistic revelation that is astrology.

Cast of Characters

I have to apologise for those of you who are not familiar with this fine television program and will provide you with a brief synopsise and outline of the main characters who so easily find their significators in the above chart.

The story line of “The Sopranos” orbits around the character of Tony Soprano a New Jersey mafia boss in full throws of midlife crisis. Tony suffers anxiety attacks and depression from the weight of his family responsibilities, the expectations of his criminal underlings and a profoundly dysfunctional relationship with his mother. Between the normal mid-life worries about teenage children, money, security, mistresses, ageing family members, as well as manoeuvring the political minefield of the criminal world and dealing with the constant suspicion about everyone’s motivations, we discover that Tony is not much different then the rest of us. The series follows the ups and downs of the individuals living in this world, who other then their predilection of solving problems through violence and murder, share the same aspirations of love, happiness and a better life for their children as more law abiding citizens.

So, let us now move on to our casting. As previously stated Tony Soprano would have to be Saturn in Aries, and obligingly he find him here positioned in the unfortunate house of death and legacies. Saturn is in its fall, but does have a bit of dignity by term, so though driven by excess he is able to conduct business. In this nocturnal chart he is the most elevated planet, as would befit the “boss” of the family. Saturn being a diurnal planet in a nocturnal chart is out of sect, reflecting the difficulties he has in performing his duty as the head of the family.

Tony is married to his teenage sweetheart, Carmela Soprano, who supports and encourages him. She keeps a nice home and tries to be a good mother to his children, and though enjoying the fruits of his ill got gains she appears to be in denial about exactly how and where Tony gets his money. Her sphere of influence is the immediate environment and she is of course Moon, cadent in the third house and fallen in Scorpio giving her an excessive need for security and a kind of powerlessness.

The third house maybe cadent, but this is the house where the Moon finds her joy and is referred to as the “House of the Goddess”. The Moon/Carmela’s position here supports the traditional view of the sanctity of the family and the role of the mother in the Italian culture that is the world of the Sopranos. The Moon/Carmela with no aspect to Saturn/Tony can not see him, but her close square to Venus who is in Saturn’s domain and rules the material assets, shows her attraction and uneasy relationship with all things provided by Saturn/Tony.

Tony has many business associates who have to answer to him. They are loyal out of friendship, family ties, insecurity and fear. In Tony’s world friends and allies can quickly turn into liabilities as everyone jostles to align themselves with power. Mercury, peregrin in Capricorn, applying to square Saturn and under his power, collectively signifies these various characters.

Tony’s nephew Christopher holds a special position in the family, the golden boy and Tony’s heir apparent. Sun in Capricorn, ruler of the twelfth house, applying his square to both Mars and Saturn makes a perfect significator for this most interesting and flawed character enmeshed in a complex relationship with his boss and uncle. Christopher is an aspiring writer and film maker with a substance abuse problem, whose loyalty to Tony and the oath he took is such that he would allow his fiancée to be killed rather then betray him.

Mars in Libra, applying his opposition to Saturn signifies all of Tony’s various enemies. In true “Godfather” style there is an understanding between enemies, the rules oblige those in power to take certain action: it’s not personal, it’s only business.

Venus in Aquarius sensually positioned in the fifth house of pleasure and applying to sextile Saturn/Tony, signifying all the spoils of the Soprano’s business interests: money, luxury and the women. Symbolically Venus represents the material gain, but personified she embodies all of Tony’s various mistresses.

Finally we have Dr Melfi, the psychiatrist Tony Soprano has been in therapy with for years. She appears as the voice of moderation and the only one able to reflect back to Tony the dysfunction of his familial relationships and the moral dilemmas his chosen profession create. Jupiter in Pisces, in the seventh house of the physician and in the sign most closely associated with the unconscious could not be a more perfect significator.

Receptions at Play and “the Tony Soprano Clause”

Let us first examine our main protaginist, Tony Soprano ie: Saturn in Aries. As Mercury, Sun and Venus are in Saturn’s ruling signs of Capricorn and Aquarius, Saturn welcomes or receives them into his rulership. As these are applying to aspect him, Saturn/Tony is receiving a sextile aspect from Venus and square aspects from Mercury and the Sun.

Looking at Mercury, Tony Sopranos criminal colleagues, we see that he will perfect his square aspect to Saturn at 27 degrees, but his movement into the next sign will keep him in Saturn’s domain. This means that Mercury is the guest of Saturn and as such he has his attention and can take advantage of what Saturn has to offer. Squaring an angry malefic in his fall situated in the house of death would clearly be a problem for Mercury, but here Saturn’s reception of Mercury alleviates much of the danger.

Saturn holds the power and has the responsibility to offer Mercury protection just as a sovereign would to his subjects (or a mafia boss would to his family). In the old texts Saturn would be said to be bestowing his virtue unto Mercury. I call this the “Tony Soprano Clause”; Tony is duty bound to make sure his guest come to no harm whilst they are in his home. Mercury as the submissive planet being received has to offer support to the needs of his ruler, Saturn. As a guest he must obey the rules of the house and not overstep his welcome. But here we are dealing with a reception by square aspect so there is tension in the relationship. The interplay between Tony Soprano and his criminal colleagues certainly reflect the stressful power play of this reception.

Mercury is in a just separating sextile with the Moon/Carmela. Mercury is in the Moon’s detriment, therefore is received by her. Being in the Moon’s detriment means that Mercury receives the worst of her, he doesn’t like her at all. Saturn/Tony’s criminal colleagues resent Moon/Carmela and she doesn’t want to give them anything. Being in a sextile aspect they will be cordial with each other, but neither gets much support from the other.

Saturn receives Venus, welcoming her into his ruling house of Aquarius, with Venus perfecting her sextile to him at 27 degrees. This reception works both ways as Venus is also receiving Saturn but into her detriment. This means that while Venus has access to the power and goodness of Saturn/Tony, he is welcomed into the world of Venus’s detriment, accessing all the trouble that Venus can bestow.

Venus in detriment indicates an exaggerated desire for luxury, pleasure and all things sensual. In this chart with Venus placed in the fifth house as well as ruling the money house, not to mention her besiegement at the hands of Neptune and Uranus, we get a clear indication of how Venus could come to spell trouble for Saturn/Tony. Venus as Tony’s various mistresses has access to the best of him and though she provides him with pleasure she is also the source of major headaches. No matter how much pain his mistresses may cause Tony and how much he may want to make them pay for it, he is obliged to do them no harm. This is the “Tony Soprano Clause” in action.

Tony’s mistresses, Venus is in a precarious relationship with his wife, Carmela, the Moon. We see the Moon fallen in Scorpio, the sign of Venus’s detriment closely applying to square her. Venus welcomes (receives) the Moon into her detriment and bestows on to her the worst aspect of herself. This is one very stressful square, which through Venus’s relationship with Saturn ties Saturn to the Moon. So while Venus gets to have the virtue of and protection from Saturn but she gets nothing but a square from the Moon who is like a thorn in her side reminding her of what she can never aspire to: wife and motherhood.

The worst of Venus is accessible to both Saturn and Moon. The Moon as Carmela is as corrupted by the money and luxuries also represented by Venus as her husband Saturn/Tony is and her knowledge of Tony’s sexual infidelities almost destroy her. Venus as the symbol for the spoils of Tony Sopranos business, also receives Mars into her domain. The square aspect between them does not perfect, but it does come into orb, indicating a weaker reception. So Mars/Tony’s enemies has access to the goods, including the money represented by Venus. Seeing as this is what everyone wants in the world of the Sopranos this comes as no surprise.

The Sun, signifying Tony’s nephew Christopher Moltisanti is applying to square Saturn and Mars, and both receive him into their rulership and exaltation respectively. The Sun/Christopher has a more complicated relationship with Saturn. Saturn is in the exaltation of the Sun, creating a mutual reception between Saturn/Tony and Sun/Christopher. While Sun is being received by Saturn and has access to his power and virtue, he is protected from being harmed by him in the same way that Tony is protected from being harmed by Christopher through the Sun’s reception of Saturn into his exaltation.

It is clear that Saturn/Tony and Sun/Christopher are very fond of each other, but this relationship is not free of danger. For one, it is a square relationship between a nasty malefic and a luminary with little dignity, and for another, the Sun squaring Mars first, will carry the light of Mars another nasty malefic and Tony’s enemies, to Saturn. This is a case of the “Tony Soprano Clause” cancelling itself out as both planets being received are protected from the harm the other might inflict on them, they are also vulnerable through their reception and welcoming of the other into their domain.

Saturn is in the exaltation of the Sun and has access to the disillusionment that is the danger of exaltation. Over the course of time Tony Soprano becomes more and more disappointed with Christopher’s actions which true to a twelfth house ruler include a fair bit of substance abuse and secrecy. The mutual reception of Sun and Saturn insured that the two stayed bonded, but in the end Saturn/Tony’s essentially debilitated state allowed him to take advantage of circumstances in order to do away with Christopher. It could never end well, as the Sun’s next move was to be into the house of its detriment.

The “Tony Soprano Clause” ensures that Saturn can not kill anyone in his own home, but reverse the situation and invite Tony into your home and things may not end so amicably, for once he crosses over your threshold you give him permission to inflict whatever damage he chooses. This is what happened to the Sun/Christopher and to Mars, Tony’s enemies.

Mars is in Libra, receiving Saturn in Aries into his rulership, whilst accepting Saturn’s reception by exaltation. Mars represents Tony’s enemies, one of who was Ralphie, the captain of one of Tony’s crews, he generally angered all who had dealings with him including Tony, exactly what one would expect from Mars in detriment. Being one of Tony’s business associates may help explain why he felt safe enough to receive Tony into his home. Once inside Saturn/Tony’s anger at Mars/Ralphie boiled over and Tony used the Aries energy at his disposal, bestowed to him by Mars, to do away with him.

Mars/Ralphie himself tried his best to inflict onto Saturn/Tony what ultimately got him, but being in detriment he was essentially weaker then Saturn/Tony’s state of fall. And so Mars/Ralphie lost his head, this is the danger of receiving nasty malefics into your domain. This mutual reception of Saturn and Mars is in an applying opposition. Every opposition with reception will have the receiving planet(s) in their detriment or fall. This may account for the negative reputation of opposition, reputed to be the worst of all aspects.

Moving on we find the Moon/Carmela in Mars/enemies domain of Scorpio, but because there is no possible aspect between the two planets they can not communicate. Tony’s enemies are aware of Carmela (the Moon) but as per the rules they have nothing to do with her. She along with all other family members are safe from Tony’s enemies, the reception insure it, but the lack of aspect means they can not help or give support to each other, they have no connection. Receptions without aspects can not really function. If you are in my home but I have no way of communicating my welcome to you, then this is like the reception with no aspect.

The final member of our hypothetical cast is Jupiter in Pisces as Dr Melfi. This is the only one of the classical seven who is not in a reception (or aspect) with any of the others. She is essentially well dignified in her own sign and though in Venus’s exaltation, there is no possible aspect between them as they are in adjacent signs. We could hypothesise that Dr Melfi/Jupiter may have an insight into the desires represented by Venus, but she has no real connection. Venus does not hold any sway over Jupiter here. In the end Jupiter strong in his own sign and angular is powerless to affect the other planets as he has neither aspect nor reception with them, he stands alone. This is very like the fictional Dr Melfi who concludes that there is no point in continuing the therapy with Tony/Saturn as it only serves to reinforce his destructive attitudes.

Epilogue, the Chart and Beyond

There are some final points of interest in this chart, like Pluto, Lord of the underworld sitting on the IC underpinning the chart. The twelfth house associated with criminals and secret enemies is ruled by the Sun that is on the antiscia point of Pluto. The two malefics, Mars and Saturn are in the signs of their detriment or fall, accentuating their malevolence and allowing them to act in an extreme manner. Both unfortunately placed, they oppose each other from the house of death and the house known as “the gates of hell”.

Venus the ruler of the second house of money, a primary motivation for all who inhabit the “Soprano” world, is in a closely applying square with the fallen Moon, symbol of an unrequited need for security. Adding to the Moon dilemma is the fact that she is on the antiscia point of the South Node. This being like a hidden conjunction it symbolically implies that a strong tie or pull to the past hinders the ability for change and growth. Obviously the Moon also finds itself in a contra-antiscia, or hidden opposition with the North Node, symbol for the road that lies ahead.

So what does lie ahead for Tony Soprano and his follow cast? The final episode “Made in America” aired on June 10, 2007 at 9:00 pm. The chart for this event again set in Newark NJ compares interestingly with the chart of the show’s premier. Mars, Venus and Mercury have all moved to oppose their premier chart’s position, the South node is conjunct the premier chart’s ASC almost to the minute and the Moon is conjunct Saturn’s premier position.

The Sopranos final episode

Saturn/Tony has now moved into the sign of Leo. This is appropriate for at the shows end he has survived a deadly coup by his criminal rivals and can claim the position of “king” over his criminal organisation, albeit his power is much diminished by the loss of so many of his crew. Saturn/Tony is in detriment and is conjunct the twelfth house North Node of the premiere’s chart.

Mercury, significator of the criminal colleagues is unfortunately receiving the Sun, eighth house ruler, lord of death into his own sign. Though the two are in adjacent signs and appear to make no aspect they are in an exact antiscia to each other. So Mercury covertly invited Sun/death into his home, and death did his thing. True to the symbols in this chart, by the end Tony had few surviving colleagues. Their demise being perpetrated at the instigation of Tony’s enemies, Mars now stronger in Aries, who is being received by the Sun into his exaltation.

So Mars/Tony’s enemies is able to access and use the virtue of the Sun, lord of death to seek his revenge on Tony “family”. This is a strong reception as Mars is in a partile sextile with the Sun enabling him to carry the light from the lord of death to Tony. But Mars himself is in a precarious position being conjunct by antiscia the South Node. Symbolically Mars can be thought of as the final winner in the game, he sits on the IC the end point or it could be the grave.

The Moon/Carmela is trining Saturn/Tony from Saturn’s original position, indicating that Carmela has come to understand and accept Tony. Her position on the IC represents the conclusion of the show that family is the true foundation of life. The Moon in Aries, is received by Mars from whom she is separating, indicating that she has access to his virtues, including self-assertion and courage. By the end of the show Carmela has gone from an obedient and subservient wife totally dependent on her husband, to one who accepts the life and man she has chosen, takes financial responsibility and sits more as an equal partner with Tony. {Interestingly the Moon is on the antiscia point of the premier charts Mercury/Tony’s criminal colleagues}.

Venus makes no aspect to any planet and though the Sun receives her into his rulership, the reception is poor as they will not perfect or come within orb of an aspect to each other. As a significator of money, her placement on the eighth house cusp mirrors the financial difficulties our characters find themselves by the end of the show, a situation that will probably not change in the near future. Moral of the story is that crime doesn’t pay after all.

Obligingly, Pluto has moved for his angular position on the IC to one on the ASC, the underworld has come out from hiding. Meanwhile, Jupiter/Dr Melfi is still essentially dignified, but is afflicted by her accidental state of retrogression and position in the twelfth. She is moving away from all aspects and is not involved in any reception. Jupiter like Dr Melfi is isolated from all the other planets/characters and is powerless to take any effective action.

So what happened when the screen went black? Did Tony Soprano live or die? The evidence gained from the receptions in this chart point to Tony’s survival. Lord of death, Sun receives Saturn/Tony into his domain. The “Tony Soprano clause” works in Tony’s favour here death can do him no harm. Yet he is under the Sun’s power in the sign of his detriment and in the house indicating anguish of the mind. We can conclude that Saturn/Tony will not be free of the fear of death, but for the moment death, the Sun can not harm him.

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. hi
    I thoroughly enjoy reading your article. you have made reception very easy and interesting to understand.


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