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The Vertex: Crossroads of Destiny

"Destiny" by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)  

By John Townley

Although most astrology software programs include the option of the Vertex in the natal chart, few astrologers actually use it, so there isn’t much written about it. I was a student of Charles Jayne, who along with L. Edward Johndro pioneered its use, so here is what I learned about it from him and subsequently from my own practice.

What it is

The Vertex is the intersection of the prime vertical (the local perpendicular East-West plane) with the ecliptic in the West. Look straight up, then look West, and there it is, either above or below the horizon (7th house cusp) usually within a house or two.

How to calculate it

If you don’t have a computer that does it for you and have a table of houses, you look up the IC as if it were the MC and then go to the Asc for the co-latitude (90-birth latitude) of birth. That’s the Vertex.

When it got noticed

Astrologers never used this point for interpretation until electrical engineer and astrologer L. Edward Johndro and astrologer Charles Jayne began to do so in the 1940s. Johndro called it the “Electric Ascendant” as he believed the physical basis of astrology to be electromagnetic and so divided up its major components into electrical and magnetic natures, complementary to each other as they are in a wire conducting a current, in which the electric charge moves along a wire and creates a magnetic field at right angles to it. He believed the ordinary Ascendant on the horizon plane to be the Earth's magnetic component spatially, and the prime vertical at right angles to it to be the electric component, hence the title. After looking at it in various horoscopes, he and Jayne proposed a meaning for it which is important, unique, and rather vague all at the same time.

What it means

Jayne taught that it was a point of fate or destiny (older astrologers threw those words around a lot), at which things happened that determined the path of your life. They could be large and obvious or small and seemingly insignificant at the time, but you would look back later and say everything changed at that point, in retrospect. How that actually seems to happen depends on whether it is a transit or progression to a natal chart,  the comparison of one natal to another, or in a relocation. In a transit or progression, you can expect an event that will be life-changing, of the nature of the transiting or progressed planet involved, for good or ill. And, conveniently (or rather inconveniently), you may miss it entirely at the time, but it will begin to become clear as time passes. Hint: keep your eyes open to blossoming developments in the rear view mirror. I haven’t seen a lot of concrete effects here, but other astrologers claim  they have.

Comparisons are another matter, and here the Vertex seems to play a major role. People with a planet on your Vertex, particularly the Sun, tend to have inordinate effect upon you, regardless of who they are. Quite often you’ll find that contact in marriage charts and in repeated love affairs, the result of which can be you find yourself recurringly involved with the same rising sign, because that sign’s Vertex tends to fall on your Sun or other important planet. The contact can be with a spouse, an important teacher, or some other major mentor and obviously life-changing contact – or it can be with someone whom you hardly know but who does something that critically alters your life, like the stranger on the curb who sticks his arm out to block your path as you are about to step in front of an oncoming car. In synastry, it’s a factor to definitely include, as it’s usually important. If someone has a planet or angle on your Vertex, be particularly aware, as it may be stickier and have a longer-lasting effect on you than you might surmise. As in other crossovers, that may warn you against a number of problematic birth years which have the outer planets posited on your Vertex. People born then could be conduits for trouble, simply because of their age. Conversely, the day the Sun is on your Vertex in any year produces people who can help you immensely, even without meaning to, and in ways neither of you may immediately recognize. Of course, you probably won't see it clearly until it's already happened, which is what gives the "fate", "destiny", and "karma" flavor to the point, since you don't have the control and free will you'd like to, and are by definition blindsided. Along with nodal contacts, Vertex contacts give you a particularly strong feeling of being connected to a larger cosmic family that crosses the ages, connected by planetary degrees.

Perhaps equally important is its role as the third angle in locational astrology. A location is considered strong if you have one natal planet rising and another on the MC (sometimes called an astrodyne), so if you add another on the Vertex, it makes that spot even more important. When you’re there, you get a triple whammy each day when that set of three degrees hits all three angles. It would be useful to have it on AstroCartography maps, but no program includes it to date. The best you can do is look for crossing lines and then cast a chart for that spot to see if the Vertex is included as well.

In general, the Vertex falls in with the lunar nodes as having the feeling of fated destiny, contact with other worlds and other lives where there’s more going on than meets the eye and it’s critically important, to boot. Why it should be so is anybody’s guess, but then, why not? The prime vertical is not left out in astrology in other ways – the now-popular Koch house system is based on time measured along the prime vertical, so why not use the Vertex? Actually, more curiously, why is not the Anti-Vertex equally used, the intersection of the prime vertical and the ecliptic in the East, near the normal Ascendant? Actually, in my experience, it’s the axis itself that is important, not just one or the other, though the Vertex shows up more dramatically in partnerships, being the 7th house cusp in a complete set of houses projected upon the prime vertical.

So, go put the Vertex into all of your charts, if you haven’t already, and see if Destiny awaits you and your Fate is to have been missing it all these years… 

More information on the Vertex and L. Edward Johndro:

Articles:

AstroDatabank

Links and discussion threads

Article by L. Blake Finley

Books:

The Vertex: The Third Angle by Donna W. Henson

The Best Of Charles Jayne

Understanding The Astrological Vertex by Sasha Fenton

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The Geometry of

 the Vertex

Here's a lovely little piece I found online by an astrologer named Gregg in North Bend, WA. Can't find out more about him, but many thanks for the nice, graphic explanation!

For those die-hards who want to understand what the Vertex "really" is, here's an explanation of the Horizon system of coordinates that we base our horoscopes on. The Horizon system is composed of a "celestial sphere" which can be visualized as a great sphere surrounding the Earth. All of the points on Earth map to equivalent points on the celestial sphere, which contains the various "great circles" that define an astrological chart.

The simplest picture of the horizon system, above, shows the celestial sphere (a projection of the surface of the earth) defined by the North and South poles, the Equator, and the Meridian (longitude) on which you were born. The red X is the point directly above the place on Earth where you were born, and is called the Zenith.

The Earth is "tilted" approximately 23.5 degrees as it travels around the Sun.


The plane that the Earth and all the planets travel in as they move around the sun is called the Plane of The Ecliptic. It is this plane that is divided up into the 12 signs of the Zodiac.


The plane of the ecliptic bisects the Earth as it travels around the Sun. The ecliptic (red circle) is the third "great circle" in the horizon system of coordinates.


From the point on Earth where you are born (beneath the Zenith) the Horizon appears to be another great circle bisecting the Earth from that point of view. Where the Horizon intersects with the Equator is the point due East of the birthplace, called the Equatorial Ascendant. (For those in the Northern hemisphere, it is just north of the Ascendant where the Sun and all the planets appear to "rise" along the ecliptic.)


The final great circle in the Horizon system is called the Prime Vertical. It is the circle drawn through the Equatorial Ascendant, Zenith, and Nadir. Where the Prime Vertical intersects the Ecliptic in the West is called the Vertex. Here the opposite of the Vertex is shown, the Anti-Vertex.


To see the actual Vertex, we have to extend the Prime Vertical and Ecliptic to show the other half of these great circles on the other side of the Celestial Sphere. As you can see, this point is 180 degrees away from the Anti-Vertex. Since the Ecliptic is the plane of the Zodiac, in this example you can see that the Vertex would be in the 8th house. It is almost always in the 5th, 6th, 7th or 8th House.








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