Ready, set, go. Death comes in threes.  

Me, myself and IBeginning, middle and end. 

Father, mother, child. Win, place & show.

As you can probably gather from the small sampling of phrases above, the expression and use of the number three is widespread and appears to find its way into all aspects of life, from sports to religion. (I once worked for a provably mad marketing guru who loved to scream “It’s always THREE!!!”, which was his second favorite statement after “It’s not your fault that you’re STUPID!!!”)

But I digress. Symbolically, the number three has a mystical significance. In his fine book, “A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe,” Michael S. Schneider writes “wherever there are three, as the three knights, three musketeers, three wise men, or three wishes, there is thoroughness, rebirth, transformation, and success.”

Not surprisingly, the number three plays a significant, but in many ways, overlooked role in astrology. There are, of course, the three modes: cardinal, fixed and mutable, which symbolize the process of initiating, consolidating and changing. In a chart, the three most important points are the Ascendant (1), the Sun (2) and the Moon (3). So important are these points that a pretty clear picture of a person can often be gathered simply by examining the relationship of these three points in a chart. In my experience, most people are familiar with their Sun sign, but many fewer know the sign of their Moon and only a very small percentage know the sign of their Ascendant.

But it’s the Ascendant that plays a very large role in a chart. It’s the reason that the time of birth is asked for. The degree of the Ascendant changes approximately every four minutes, which means that it moves through all 360 degrees every single day. (In fact, I’ve been told and have read that in Vedic (Indian) astrology, people will refer to their “sign” as their Ascendant, not as the Sun sign.)

When examining a chart, we look to see if the Ascendant, Sun and Moon are compatible, by mode and by element. Can they see each other, by which I mean, are they in aspect? If an analogy will help, imagine a stool with three legs. If the lengths of the legs are relatively even – if they work together well – then we can expect a stable personality. But if the legs are not even in length – if the points are in conflict with each other – then we can anticipate challenges with the personality, challenges knowing what they want or how to proceed. There’s an inherent imbalance that must be overcome or dealt with. Is that necessarily bad? No.Tension can be good, as it leads to development. But too much tension, too much imbalance, can delay development. Just as not enough tension can lead to a lack of development.

To take this out of the abstract realm, let’s look at a chart. If you’ve been reading the newsletter for a while, we’ll take a look at an old friend, Angelina Jolie, whose chart is below.

To make this exercise easier, I’ve stripped everything out of Jolie’s chart but the three points under consideration: the Cancer Ascendant (circled), the Gemini Sun (triangle) and the Aries Moon (square).

Ascendant is Cancer rising. The Ascendant represents the projection to the world and also symbolizes the body. With Cancer, there may be a tendency to self-centeredness alternating with an urge to merge with others. It also suggests a strong degree of self-protection. Venus (beauty) sitting almost exactly on the cusp is a fitting placement for a woman who is still probably best known for her beauty, despite a range of accomplishments.

Moon in Aries in the 10th house. Here the Moon takes on even more significance because it rules the Ascendant. The Moon in the 10th house desires to be highly visible and as it’s in Aries the desire is to be assertive, even violently so about her needs. (Recall Jolie’s strange and public relationship with Billy Bob Thornton.) Those needs are played out in public (10th house, career). Consider the accompanying picture of Jolie at the Academy Awards, which essentially says I dare you not to look at me!

Finally, the Sun in Gemini wants variety. It wants to be doing more than one thing, it’s uncomfortable being defined in a single way. Which is consistent with Jolie’s acting, directing and philanthropic activities, all of which are played out publicly – as the Moon is in a supportive aspect to the Sun.

So there you have it: with three points in the chart and a handful of keywords, we have a rather accurate description of an individual. But, you might ask, surely there are others, born with similar placements, who do not have the high-powered, high-profile life that Jolie does. What about that? From doing charts, I can answer that by saying that there are many people out there, with the same qualities as Angelina, doing equally extraordinary things who are well-known – visible, if you will – to the members of their community, their circle of colleagues and their friends.

For those of you who wish to learn more about the myriad expressions of the number “three”, go to Mike Eck’s fine website Plenty to look at there, and while you’re poking around, you can read Alan Dundes’s famous essay “The Number Three in American Culture”