If you’ve been looking into astrology, you might have seen the terms “under the beams,” “combust,” and “cazimi” floating around. In this post, I’m going to go over the basics of what these mean, as well as a couple of finer points which don’t always come up as often as I think they should.
The bottom line? It all comes down to visibility.
Increasing and decreasing in light
How easily a planet can be seen with the naked eye is an important consideration in traditional astrology, and a planet’s visibility is directly related to how close that planet is to the Sun.
As a planet moves toward the Sun, it is said to be “decreasing in light,” and it’s thought to become weaker. The planet becomes more restricted, and slowly loses its power to act. A planet has the least amount of light when it is exactly conjunct the Sun.
As a planet moves away from the Sun, however, the planet is said to “increase in light.” This is considered empowering for the planet, making it stronger, and thereby giving it more power to act. A planet has the most light when it opposes the Sun, and is therefore as far away from it as possible.
Just how strengthening or weakening this increase and decrease in light depends on how close the Sun and the planet in question are. Once they get to within about seventeen degrees of each other, though, the planet’s loss of light becomes especially significant.
Under the beams
When a planet gets to within about seventeen degrees of the Sun, the Sun’s glare begins to obscure the planet’s light. When a planet is within this glare, it is said to be “under the beams,” and significantly weakened. It has to really struggle in order to express its significations.
Think of the planet like it’s a movie you’re trying to watch on Netflix, while the Sun’s “beams” in this analogy is everyone else in your house also trying to stream something. As the other network traffic grows, it starts to swamp your connection, and the movie you’re watching will begin to drop in quality.
That’s what it’s like for a planet which is under the beams. It’s still the same movie, but you’re obviously not getting the full experience.
When a planet gets to within about eight degrees of the Sun, the situation gets even worse. In this case, the planet is said to be “combust.”
This is your movie buffering…buffering…then timing out completely.
Combustion is considered so bad that several traditional sources say that not only is the planet’s light “obscured,” but that the planet is effectively destroyed by the Sun’s light and heat. In traditional, Western astrology it’s just about the worst case scenario for a planet.
Still, exactly how combustion affects a planet depends on that planet’s nature. A planet with a “moist” nature, such as Venus, firmly falls into that “destroyed” category. It’s severely weakened by the Sun’s excessive heat and its drying nature.
A planet like Mars? Well, Mars is already quite hot and dry. Since combustion adds to this heat and dryness, it can sometimes exacerbate Mars’s natural hostility. Mars still won’t have very much power to act (remember, visibility is a thing), but when it does act, watch out.
Now, the planet Mercury is something of a special case with respect to all of this. According to some authors, Mercury generally possesses a hot and dry nature because it’s never very far from the Sun. And because of its rapid movement—which frequently changes direction—Mercury is considered a much more “flexible” or “adaptable” planet.
So when Mercury is under the beams or combust, it doesn’t tend to suffer like other planets do. Rather, a combust Mercury is usually linked to a “loss of objectivity.” That is, because it’s in the Sun’s glare, it not only can’t be seen, it tends to lose its own ability to see things, particularly other points of view.
Personally, I find that if Mercury plays a dominant role in your natal chart, combustion can sometimes feel a little bit like a retrograde. As it enters combustion, Mercury stuff can be slightly delayed or interrupted. As it leaves combustion, though, those delays or interruptions usually resolve themselves pretty quickly.
There’s another piece to the combustion story we need to cover, and that’s when a planet makes an exact conjunction with the Sun. In traditional astrology, this is considered a special case and not a debility at all. Instead, the planet is said to be “in the Sun’s heart,” and it’s greatly strengthened.
This condition is called “cazimi,” and most astrologers say it begins to apply when a planet is within about seventeen minutes of the Sun. Several sources I’ve read compare a planet in cazimi to a noble being propped up and aided directly by a powerful king. It’s a very strong dignity which gives the planet significantly more power to act than usual, at least in theory.
Other considerations like the planet’s speed and direction do factor in, but cazimi’s no joke. It’s like Netflix coming to your house to install a fiber-optic connection exclusively so you can stream the movie you wanted to see.
Finally, we come to the last piece of the puzzle: “Chariot.”
If a planet is in a sign that it rules when its conjunction with the Sun takes place, it’s said to be much less affected by being under the beams or combust. The planet is on its home turf, so it has the strength to resist the Sun’s influence.
In this situation, the planet is said to be “in its chariot,” which makes sense if you picture a chariot with a large canopy built to provide shade to the driver.
Want another streaming analogy? “Chariot” is you jumping into your internet router’s settings and giving your own connection top priority, because this is your house, dang it, and Catwoman deserves better than 144p!
Now, different astrologers have different opinions as to what extent chariot mitigates the Sun’s effects. It also touches on another “touchy” issue: what if the Sun and the planet in question aren’t in the same sign?
For instance, if Jupiter is at twenty-nine degrees of Pisces, and the Sun is at two degrees of Aries, they’re only three degrees apart and well within the range of combustion. Is Jupiter still considered to be in its chariot, since it has no power over the Sun in Aries? And does it even matter, since Jupiter and the Sun aren’t in the same sign? Do the Sun’s beams cross sign boundaries?
As I said, there are different opinions. Personally, I don’t consider a planet to be under the beams or combust unless it and the Sun are in the same sign. I also only give “partial credit” to a planet being in its chariot. I see it as mitigating the effects of the Sun somewhat, but the planet is still invisible, and so it still suffers some limitation.
Then again, this is just my own take on the matter. What do you think?
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