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Planetary Order III: Islands in the Sky Date Published: 10/01/2007 by John Townley
Bio: John Townley John Townley

Early in his astrological career, John Townley introduced the composite chart technique for analyzing relationships in his book The Composite Chart, and twenty years later wrote the definitive work on the subject, Composite Charts: The Astrology of Relationships. He has pioneered techniques for astrological cycle analysis and proposed a new, physical basis for astrology. He is also the author of Planets in Love, Dynamic Astrology, and Lunar Returns, has been the president of the Astrologers' Guild of America, was the editor of The Astrological Review, and is a contributor to professional and popular astrological magazines. His books have been translated into seven languages.

John is also a well-known journalist, elected member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, historian, preservationist, performer, and record producer. He can be regularly found, camera and microphone in hand, covering cultural and technology events ranging from the Consumer Electronics Show to the Toy Fair, from international music festivals to ocean sailing races. When he's not behind the camera and microphone, he's in front of them, performing at maritime concerts in the U.S. and across Europe.

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Planetary Order III

There’s one last important consideration when looking at the impact of planetary order in a chart, and that’s the shape of the chart itself. The overall pattern of the chart — often referred to as “Jones patterns,” after astrologer Marc Edmund Jones who first named a variety of them — will add emphasis to certain planets because of their unique positions in the overall marching order of the chart.

Chart patterns are in part significant because of the way planetary order highlights or isolates certain planets and their impact, giving some more power than others around them. By definition, chart patterns become patterns (as opposed to random distribution) because they feature one or more distinct clusterings of planets. That means that when it comes to progressions and transits, those clusters get hit like they are islands in the sky. Like islands in the sea, each sky-island has a prevailing, windward side and a leeward side — the windward side is the edge earliest in the Zodiac (which takes aspects first) and the leeward is the is the last one to be hit, the latest in the Zodiac.

When planetary weather crosses these islands and activates the planets inside them, the windward planet (or leading planet, or cutting planet, depending on whose terminology you use) defines the nature of the whole experience, as it is the first, the opener, the one that gets earliest attention. The leeward planet (or trailing planet) is the closer and as such defines how the experience is finished up, its ends tied up, its conclusions and harvests defined and utilized. Also of significance is what signs and houses they inhabit, and also what aspect, if any, they hold between them. And, altogether, the nature of each island is described by the planets that live there and the order in which they introduce themselves.

Jones patterns
The seven patterns described by Marc Edmund Jones are idealized, don't quite match every reality.


Here, covering the standard Jones patterns plus some extras, are examples of how and why they manifest the way they do in personality, based on the experiential development each pattern delivers:

The Bowl Pattern – All 10 planets lie to one side and occupy only half the chart. It is associated with an extreme degree of self-containment. When these are also entirely contained between the lunar nodes (in Vedic astrology called Kala Sarpa yoga, “the black serpent of time”), it has an even greater separating, containing quality. Why so contained and separative? Simply because half the life is spent without aspecting conjunctions, creating a bit of an experiential standoff with the world. You get a whole spate of lunar transits for two weeks, then nothing for another two. When the transiting Moon is inside the bowl, you get a preponderance of supportive aspects, when it’s not you get a preponderance of dissonant ones. The result is you develop a feast-or-famine sensibility, where half of life is making hay while the Sun shines and storing up enough to survive alone without as much attention during the other half.

The Bundle Pattern – All 10 planets are bundled in 1/3 of the chart, leaving 2/3 open. A highly-focused, unifaceted individual, capable of great intensity and depth in one given area, often to the exclusion of all else is the norm. It has all the alienation of the bowl and even more, as it sees less time of strongly engaging transits and must make it all happen in a very brief, intense experience, like living in the high arctic with a very short growing season. These are relatively rare, and often reflect periods of civil desperation or isolation in general, a notable example being the middle years of WWII.

The See-Saw Pattern - Two groups of planets oppose each other, leaving two vacant arcs of from 60° to 90° at opposite sides of the circle. A consciousness of opposing views in a world of conflict, with success dependent on correct alignment is the general prognosis here. Experientially, it’s about living in two different worlds that manifest at opposite sides of every cycle. When one part runs dry, you draw on the other, like a migratory animal that alternates between two favorable, but seasonal environments. People like this often actually have two residences, dual passports, and the like, indicatory of alternate worlds both inside and out. Sometimes a little schizy, definitely with Jekyll and Hyde possibilities, often a work-home personality dichotomy.

Jones Patterns


The Locomotive Pattern – All 10 planets occupy between ½ and 2/3 of the chart, leaving 1/3 or more empty. This shows a dynamic and practical capacity, especially characterized by the qualities of the leading planet. Motivated, sometimes to the point of being overbearing, this personality is particularly characterized by the leading planet. Experientially, this is a bowl type with a single toehold in the otherwise opposing vacuum, and that tie to the rest of the world pulls the rest of the personality along after this one hope of avoiding separation. A little like the greyhound chasing the rabbit.

The Bucket Pattern – 9 planets form a bowl while the 10th, a singleton, looks like a handle. An inclination to make life swing around some special activity, which is characterized and controlled by the planet comprising the handle, is indicated. This can also include a double handle, with two planets less than a sign apart serving as alternate swing points, like a more focused see-saw, or perhaps the twin cords of a classical sling. A single bucket where the handle is near opposition to the leading edge of the bucket is also called a "scythe" and has particular locomotive intensity. Yet another version can be found where the nodes are the only handle for a bowl or bundle chart, signifying an abandonment to fate, a "cauldron of destiny." In a way, this is the extreme of the see-saw, where a single planet is set apart as the only alternate reality, against the preponderance of personal experience. And, like the leading edge of the locomotive, the handle planet is the only “handle” on the rest of the world and therefore the focus of how/where one takes advantage of it. A very tight version of the bucket is called a fan pattern, in which 9 planets are concentrated into 1/3 of the chart, the 10th stands by itself, emphasizing the opposition. It’s most common during those rare bundle periods when the Moon spins out to become the handle.

Jones Patterns


The Splay Pattern – Three or more distinct points of the chart are occupied, with strong and sharp aggregations of planets irregularly spaced, leaving the rest empty. This indicates a purposeful individuality, which chooses its outlet of self-expression and refuses to be pigeon-holed. A life full of separated pockets of intensity and focus, sometimes seemingly unrelated. Experientially, it is the hunter-gatherer of the lot, where there are multiple productive feeding grounds, with travel between them. Many ports, many storms, it has a sometimes harsh quality about it.

The Splash Pattern – All 10 planets well divided around the wheel, with no noticeable gaps in the daily rising sequence. This describes a well-balanced nature with a capacity for universal interest, marked by versatility and the seeming ability to find order in apparent confusion. It is in a way not a pattern at all, but a uniform regularity where there is always something happening, always fruit to be gathered from the trees, regardless of season. There are no leading or trailing planets, no transit “seasons” and thus the pattern tends to make the classical “man for all seasons.”

Jones Patterns


Windward and Leeward. The leading edge of each of these islands in the sky is the first to feel planetary weather in the form of transits and progressions and this planet lends its quality particularly to the whole island, as might be expected. It’s the planet that holds that particular fort, for well or ill, the first spotted by a lookout that names the rest. It’s the first foot ashore, what you remember going in to the experience. The final planet in each island is the summation of the experience, the last memory and farewell (or good riddance, as the case may be).

The nature of each is, of course, affected by where they fall in the chart and their own support by or afflictions from the rest of the chart or the planets within the island. A badly afflicted leading planet invites in rolling disasters in the same way a damaged breakwater would. A firm, resilient, well-fortified one is preferable. A strongly supported trailing planet means things turn out all right in the end, regardless, whereas an afflicted one can leave a bad taste in the mouth like a spoiled dessert at the end of a great dinner, or a wreck upon leaving the harbor.

Mixing and Matching. Not all charts fit easily into just one pattern. The U.S. chart could be a double-handled bucket, a splash, or a splay, depending on how you look at it. Some bowl charts have several clusters arranged within their 180-degree spread so that they also act like a splay within a bowl. And, many splash charts are not just evenly distributed planets but multiple clusters that make them more like overgrown splays. Add Chiron and the asteroids and you get even more subtleties and combinations. The trick, in the end, is to look at it from the order point of view — who gets hit first by transits and how long between hits, the experiential approach.

Aspect Patterns. Many astrologers like to integrate the major aspect patterns (grand trines, crosses, T-squares and the like) into the picture, and it’s nice when you can. A splay chart is often gathered around a grand trine, a bucket around a grand cross, and so on. But just as often they are not, so don’t link the two unnecessarily, unless they are both there they are two separate (though sometimes reinforcing) phenomena.



© Copyright: John Townley





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