Do I contradict myself?Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
I don’t think I ever found a comprehensive online resource describing in detail the experience of living with a Cardinal Grand Cross in the natal chart. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that there aren’t many of us around to begin with. Grand Crosses are not common — I recall a more experienced astrologer stating that perhaps one chart in 50 or even 100 has a Cardinal Grand Cross in it.
I felt compelled to contribute, because I know that, most of anything, Cardinal Cross people have questions. Many. Recurring. Mostly unanswered. When your life feels like being pulled apart in many different directions at once, when peace of mind seems to elude you, you want to know why. You want to know what good can come of that. What road should you take. Where will it lead you. What are you supposed to do with your life.
Not only this is normal — it’s part of the experience as well. A Cardinal Grand Cross packs such an amount of volcanic potency, it might require a long time, multiple attempts and more than a few failures before you can learn to harness it properly and without damaging yourself (or others). Somebody says it’s not that far removed from possessing a superpower you’re learning how to use. I would second that statement. This is why I think it’s important for people who have a Cardinal Grand Cross in their chart to study this alignment, and learn from experience — theirs and others.
So what exactly is a Cardinal Grand Cross?
Some of us may have first heard about Grand Crosses, cardinal or otherwise, in 2014. The Cardinal Grand Cross that peaked on April 23 of that year was the whole talk of the astrology blogosphere throughout the months leading up to the event — and for some time afterwards.
Mars, Jupiter, Uranus and Pluto were involved. It was like a cosmic standoff between giants — the Uranus/Pluto square had been within orb of influence for several months at that point; Mars backtracking in Libra turned the pattern into a T-Square, and then Jupiter in Cancer came along filling the empty leg.
The result was a tangle of squares and oppositions — Jupiter in Cancer opposing Pluto in Capricorn and squaring Mars and Uranus, Mars in Libra opposing Uranus in Aries and squaring Jupiter and Pluto, and so on — that stir up kinetic, destabilizing ripples of tension in our lives, upsetting the balance and changing our perspective forever.
A Grand Cross is therefore the combination of four or more planets that are all separated from each other by squares (roughly 90 degrees apart), forming two different sets of oppositions (180 degrees). Sign-wise, every leg of the cross falls in a different astrological element — Fire, Earth, Air and Water — but every planet (or cluster, if one leg consists in a conjunction of 2+ planets) shares the same modality or quality with the others — Cardinal, Fixed, Mutable.
This is the reason why we classify this particular pattern on the basis of the mode in which the planets are found: we have Cardinal Grand Crosses, Fixed Grand Crosses and Mutable Grand Crosses. They share several similarities, even though each type of Grand Cross has an unique expression and purpose.
In this post, I’m mostly going to discuss the Cardinal Grand Cross, because it’s the variation I know best and the one I can provide my first-hand account of.
My very own Cardinal Grand Cross
Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been a profoundly restless person. I also believe restless is just another word for driven.
Not a day goes by without this inner urge to do, to achieve, to intervene on the surrounding reality in some way. I want to do things. I want to do them my way. I want to take risks. I want to manifest my vision of a life that truly mirrors my wants, needs and values. I want to be my own person.
On the day I was born, the Moon in Libra, Mars in Aries, Neptune in Capricorn and Chiron in Cancer were all in orb of aspect to each other. Needs. Passion. Dreams. Pain.
Before I discovered Astrology, life felt like being locked in a washing machine during a spin dryer cycle. I felt this tremendous surge of dynamic energy inside of me, and I had absolutely no idea what to make of it, so I resorted to compulsory, impulsive behaviours and unleashed my anger and frustration in ways that were extremely harmful and detrimental.
It’s not easy to manage a Cardinal Grand Cross: after all, it’s like having four different personalities inside of you and desperately trying to get them to cooperate. The inner conflict causes the tension and frustration to build up, to the point that if you don’t find a way to let off steam, the latter is bound to scald you, sooner or later. Again and again.
It took me a while to get the hang of it. Knowing when to allow room for expression to each one of these four energies, when to let my Moon talk, when to channel the raw power of Mars, when to tend to my Chiron and how to navigate my leaky Neptune.
This would be my first piece of advice: look deep within, learn how to name and distinguish the Gods that inhabit you, bring a measure of order into the chaos. Know yourself, but also yourselves.
It’s a modus operandi you learn over time — partly it’s about finding that inner balance that allows you to tell the voices of your planets apart and truly listen to them, partly it’s about accepting and loving yourself. It might sound corny, but it’s true. There is no point in rejecting your own contradictions out of fear and shame; it only makes matters worse and will cause you to push back the parts of you that you deem “undesirable” into the shadow, where their influence will be much more underhanded and constraining.
It’s also not easy to accept that you can be a raging warrior, a seeker of harmony, a lunar soul and a wildly ambitious person all at once, but it becomes easier the more you un-learn, deconstruct your conditioning (parental, cultural and so on) and give birth to yourself.
Managing a Cardinal Grand Cross
The Cardinal Grand Cross is the more action-oriented among the three variants. Each of the four Cardinal signs falls on either a solstice or an equinox: these are the signs that initiate the change of seasons. Esoterically speaking, Cancer and Capricorn are also considered the doorways through which the Soul descends and departs at the beginning and end of each incarnation on Earth.
This quality of initiatory force is at the very core of every cardinal sign, regardless of the element. Setting things in motion and pushing for new experiences are natural outlets for Cardinal energy; inertia, passivity and resignation are the antithesis to this mode and tend to feed into the endless loop of inner tension, psychological/spiritual distress and disruptive outbursts.
A Cardinal Grand Cross turns the native into a dynamo, filled with life force, dreams, ambitions and goals.
People born under a Cardinal Grand Cross need to develop and affirm their agency, and experience the liberating feeling of holding themselves accountable for their own direction in life. It’s like we are born to balance the homeostasis in our families and communities and trigger crises — as in κρίσις, krísis, “power of distinguishing, decision, choice” — and domino-effects of evolution. It’s not an easy task and it’s probably not going to win you many popularity contests, but it’s necessary in the grand scheme of things.
Thanks to this dynamic process of self-discovery and self-affirmation, the individual is able to develop a considerable strength of character and a notable amount of personal power. Perseverance also allows the native to train up and acquire an impressive set of skills to navigate life’s multiple challenges. It’s no wonder that some of the most successful people who are known for having risen above adversity while staying committed to their vision have Grand Crosses in their Chart. The list of famous individuals who fit the above description, whose natal horoscope shows a Cardinal Grand Cross, include Steve Jobs and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
In short: action is key when it comes to managing a Cardinal Grand Cross. It’s all about charging right in, or, as Gandhi would have it, being the change, without fossilizing in the wait for the right time or place. When you have a Cardinal Grand Cross, action is a state of being more than anything. The time is always now. Except for the time to quit, which is never.
Pursuing goals, the Cardinal way
Of course, the best way to obtain the desired outcome is to break down larger goals into simple steps and, most importantly, have a clear idea of what said goals ought to be and of how they relate to our growth and self-development. Mindless impulsivity and unreasonable impatience are two of the side-effects of a Cardinal Grand Cross and two of the less constructive expressions of this pattern.
Cardinal energy does not only need an outlet, but also a solid, defined direction. Impulse (Aries) and intuition (Cancer) need to be backed up with strategy and endurance (Capricorn), and a pinch of perspective (Libra), since charging ahead aimlessly and missing the target is only going to trigger more frustration and resentment.
With time and experience, the Cardinal Grand Cross becomes a well-oiled machine that prompts the individual to dive headfirst into their self-discovery journey and, ultimately, to become a vessel for dynamism and innovation. A human doorway through which things begin and end. A catalyst, an inciter who dreams things into existence step after step.
That very restlessness serves a purpose. It’s the mark of a vast responsibility towards the Self, the Soul and — maybe — mankind.
If you have a Cardinal Grand Cross in your chart and need guidance on how to harness its energy, you can request an astrology reading.
Image by Yuri Bodrikhin on Unsplash.