Virgo Champion – Richard Garfield & Magic the Gathering

Some people may not be familiar with this month’s delineation.  Richard Garfield is the creator of the immensely popular trading card game, Magic: The Gathering.  Although Magic was released in 1993, Garfield had been developing and designing game prototypes since he was a child.  But since this hobby wouldn’t support him financially he earned a PHD in mathematics and became a professor after graduation.  His chart below:

Virgo Stellium

A stellium is a configuration of planetary bodies grouped together within the same sign.  Due to the shared or unified focus of the planets, the characteristics of the sign are amplified.  As with all major configurations it is a significant area of focus, but for Garfield it is the primary focus[1] as the stellium contains seven bodies.

Broadly speaking, the Virgo quality is often associated with a high focus on detail.  This would include interpreting rules, understanding minutiae, embracing complexity and/or analyzing technicalities.  For Garfield this correlation is somewhat surreal because he wasn’t just a professor of mathematics, but a highly specialized subset, Combinatorial Mathematics. This driving need (Moon) manifested most prominently in the development of Magic, a game that contains a rulebook over 200 pages long and thousands of cards[2] containing different mechanics and abilities.

Magic: The Gathering

Essentially, Magic is a game centered around organizing a dizzying array of game play mechanics and rules into a holistic and interconnected strategy (card deck).  While Magic is most visibly defined by mystical, mythological or occult themes, Garfield has admitted that his primary focus “…was inspired by the mechanics.  I was interested in designing a game in which people could construct their own decks, and that was the root of the game.  It wasn’t until months later that I came up with the idea of attaching a magical theme to it.”[3]

What distinguishes Magic from other games like Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is that while D&D also relies on a comprehensive set of rules[4], it is a role playing game whose core characteristic is fantasy.  For Magic, the core characteristic is the complexity of mechanics and rules that are leveraged and combined to form powerful game winning strategies.  The following blog comment on a recently released popular card illustrates this complexity perfectly:

I play mono black vampires and the synergy with Bloodghast is crazy.  By turn 4-5 my hand is usually empty from removing creatures or playing small aggressive vampires.  Attack, then (depending on blocks) activate Kalitas, sack Bloodghast then play your land and get him again and still have two mana open for your removal.  He shuts down things like Kitchen Finx (which aggro decks have trouble with) and Wurmcoil Engine.  He has four toughness so bolts and damage based removal don’t really hit him.  At four mana I feel this is an amazing card and could fit in a lot of decks that play black just from graveyard hate to lifelink to token generation to surviving your own Anger the Gods or Radiant Flames.  And by pumping him once Siege Rhino won’t get through and you will be gaining a quarter of your life back a turn.[5] 

The pre-requisite knowledge required to understand this statement is extensive and highlights another hallmark of Virgo: technical explanations equivalent to a foreign language.

The heart of this Virgo stellium is the Uranus-Moon-Pluto conjunction.  Here, Garfield’s need for detail, mechanics and complexity is at the center (midpoint) of the archetypal forces of revolution (Uranus) and transformation (Pluto).[6]  There is little debate that Magic is a revolutionary game that has transformed the gaming industry and blazed a trail for many other similar trading card games to follow.

YOD # 1 – Apex Jupiter

The YOD is a configuration involving three planets forming an isosceles triangle.  The two planets at the base are within 60 degrees (sextile aspect) of each other while simultaneously forming 150 degree angles (quincunx aspect) to the planet at the apex.

As detailed in prior entries, the sextile aspect is seen as beneficial for the relationship of the involved archetypes as it tends to excite or inspire their expression.[7]  On the other hand, the quincunx aspect is seen as mildly stressful as it represents signs that have no legitimate elemental relation to each other.  While the quincunx aspect isn’t anywhere near as confrontational as a square, its discomfort stems from the awkwardness or unfamiliarity of elemental qualities trying to blend productively.[8]

Individuals with a YOD feel the ability or talents represented by the two base planets, but are not sure of how to utilize those gifts in order to manifest what is represented by the apex planet.  As a result, the YOD is seen as a configuration of “fate”[9] in that the apex planet represents a mission or “destiny” for the individual.

For Garfield, Mars and Neptune are at the base of his YOD while Jupiter is at the apex.  The contact between the two base planets is creative not only due to their sextile relationship, but also due to Neptune’s placement within the 5th house of creativity and games.  Neptune represents the archetype of fantasy so the sextile with Mars reflects how Magic’s fantasy theme is combined and supported by its detailed mechanics (Virgo).

Jupiter is positioned in the competitive sign of Aries and placed within the 11th house of groups, societies or communities so Garfield’s destiny or mission was to figure out how to leverage the creative talent between his innate sense of fantasy within games and drive towards precision and complexity in a manner that resulted in a massive (Jupiter) competitive community.[10]  This destiny is confirmed by Jupiter’s conjunction to the part of fortune, its status as the only planet in a fire element[11] and its rulership of the 10th house of career and reputation.  Cumulatively, this YOD provides strong evidence of an individual who would become successful and famous.[12]

YOD # 2 – Apex Neptune

Jupiter and Neptune’s contribution to Garfield’s destiny are echoed with this second YOD.  Here, Venus, Mercury and Jupiter are at the base and Neptune is at the apex.  While it does not include any part of Garfield’s Virgo stellium, it does contain two out of the three components of the initial YOD.  This amplifies the dynamics of that delineation, but also more explicitly emphasizes the significance of gaming because it involves the ruler of the 5th house of games (Venus) in tight sextile (within one minute of exact) to Jupiter.  Mercury’s involvement also strengthens this YOD as it is in the sign of its rulership and is the chart (Ascendant) ruler.  Fantasy games with a multiplicity of elements (Gemini) is not only a lifelong mission (Neptune apex), but also a visible characteristic of the first impression Garfield provides to others (Ascendant ruler Mercury).

At this point it becomes a little difficult to tease out where one YOD begins and the other ends.  Their characteristics make them uniquely powerful, but reinforce and mirror each other so closely that their delineations tend to blend together.  This blending adds strength to the probability and quality of manifestation.

Saturn-Pallas Opposition

Saturn represents the general archetype of structure, so its placement within the 9th house of higher learning is a good representation of Garfield’s attempt to bring structure to his life with a profession that was a little more stable (i.e. Saturn again) than gaming.  In addition, Saturn is in tight opposition with the asteroid, Pallas Athene.[13]  According to astrologers, Demetra George and Douglas Bloch:

Pallas Athene bestows the wisdom of inner vision that endows perception of whole patterns.  Pallas types possess the ability to conceive and coordinate the schema for systems.  Pallas Athene represents the wisdom of strategy, foresight, and planning which leads to concrete achievements and tangible results.[14]

I have long suspected Pallas as a critical component in the charts of individuals who enjoy gaming or puzzles.  To some degree, we could judge that mathematics provides some satisfaction of Pallas’ theme and Virgo stellium, but it doesn’t do enough to satisfy the expression of Garield’s YODs.  By creating Magic, Garfield was able to express the Pallas archetype of pattern or strategy through the construction of a deck of cards possessing complementary game play mechanics.

Additionally, he used his role as a college professor to support his work on Magic in the background.  Here, the 12th house Mercury-Venus conjunction and Jupiter provide harmonious aspects (trine, sextile) to both ends of the Saturn-Pallas polarity.  In this manner, both YODS are assisting the challenge represented by Saturn-Pallas.[15]


The t-square is the final configuration to analyze and it involves many planetary bodies from other configurations.  Here, Mars from YOD #1 is opposing Chiron while the Venus-Mercury conjunction from YOD # 2 is now the focal point at the apex.  Their repeated involvement results in a reinforcement of archetypal themes as their sign qualities alone reflect the challenge of devising a game with a multiplicity of elements (Gemini) working together in a mechanical fashion (Virgo), but also containing fantasy (Pisces) elements.

Chiron is the only planet not involved with any other major configuration.  Traditionally, it has been broadly characterized as a type of archetypal “wound”, but this descriptor falls a bit short of its comprehensive evolutionary function.  As Melanie Reinhardt explains, “Chiron often describes a concretization of a quality of being or a transformation of consciousness which is trying to develop and be born for the sake of our wholeness.”[16]  From this perspective, Chiron is more of an archetype of individuation, an area of weakness or a missing quality that must be embraced so that the experience or lesson can be shared with others.[17]

With its placement within the 10th house of career and goals “…we often experience difficulty in setting and achieving goals, and finding our place in society.  We may have to be patient in our longing for a vocation through which to contribute to the world.”[18]  Obviously, this is a good description of Garfield’s struggles in starting a career in gaming and Chiron’s opposition to Mars shows how the missing or developing quality of imagination (Piscean placement) must balance with the innate drive for precision and mechanics so that it can successfully mature in the area of career.  Their simultaneous square aspects to Venus-Mercury show the focus on games (5th house ruler) as a core component of the general self-image (Ascendent ruler) that is working behind the scenes (12th house).

The interplay between Garfield’s YOD’s and t-square is immensely interesting.  While both contain three angles that focus its expression at the apex, the activation and reasoning for activation differ slightly.  With a YOD, the apex planet must solve the puzzle of unleashing the talents contained in the two “base” planets in order to actualize the apex, but with the t-square, the apex planet will increase its strength or dominance in order to “overcome” the frustrations of at its base.

The focal planet of a t-square frequently operates like a dictator; it wants to predominate over all the other planets that make up the personality.  The pressure exerted by the opposing planets which square it provide it with considerable energy…the energy released by the focal planet can provide the motivation necessary to develop a talent or personal characteristic to the utmost, and to apply it in a practical and beneficial manner.[19]

The t-square was the engine or muscle that transformed his hobby into a career, while the YOD was the talent that was unleashed in a fashion that defined his destiny.  Without either configuration, it is debatable whether Garfield would have achieved such success, but the intersection of both configurations amplified by the defining Virgo stellium enhanced the degree of manifestation and archetypal presence to powerhouse levels.

Watching interviews of Garfield, its hard to imagine the power contained within such an introverted, unassuming individual, but sometimes astrology provides a glimpse into the inner workings of a complex system so synergistic and elegant that it could be considered a work of art.  I would think Garfield may appreciate that.

End Notes

[1] This is a good example as to why Sun signs alone are woefully inadequate in describing an individual.

[2] As of January 2015, a count of 13651 cards was confirmed and new sets are added each year adding an additional 500 cards per year.

[3] Butler, Blake. “An Interview with Richard Garfield, Creator of Magic: The Gathering.” VICE., 20 Feb. 2014. Web. 09 Apr. 2016.

[4] It should be noted that D&D’s creators do possess a good amount of Virgo.

[5] This comment was in connection to a card that can be accessed here.

[6] Garfield is another powerful manifestation of the intense, revolutionary conjunction between Uranus and Pluto that occurred in the 1960’s and later manifested in the 1990’s.

[7] The logic behind this is due to the elemental quality of the involved signs.  Signs within the fire and air elements tend to support each other as do signs within the earth and water elements.

[8] Some astrological authors have stated that timing appears to be a major issue with planets in quincunx aspect to each other.

[9] Hence, the pet name, “Finger or god” or “Finger of fate”.

[10] Mars’ rulership of Jupiter and the 11th house echoes this dynamic.

[11] Pallas Athena is also placed in a fire element, but asteroids are typically excluded when evaluating a chart’s elemental balance.  Here, Garfield is lacking fire which highlights the importance of Jupiter’s expression and his need to manifest it.

[12] During 1992-1993, this apex planet received a number of major transits, activating its natal destiny and bringing both Garfield and his game into prominence.  In 1992, the epochal outer planet conjunction between Uranus and Neptune formed a square aspect to Garfield’s Jupiter.  In 1993, secondary progressed Mercury formed a trine at the same time secondary progressed Moon and transiting Jupiter formed oppositions to Garfield’s Jupiter.

[13] Astrology only includes a small subset of asteroids because this subset is thought to have the strongest archetypal correlation.  Synchronicity is the core principle driving inclusion, so with the naming of specific asteroids, the associated historical myths foreshadow the manifestation of potential future archetypal themes.

[14] Demetra George and Douglas Bloch, Asteroid Goddesses, IBIS Press, 1986, p.89.

[15] This is another good representation of the nature of the opposition in that his background passion mediated the oppositional nature of the two areas.

[16] Melanie Reinhardt, Chiron and the Healing Journey, The Penguin Group, 1998, p.65.

[17] This sounds a bit like Saturn with the subtle difference that Chiron inherently involves some degree of suffering.  Saturn, if well placed and aspected, may not manifest as a “taskmaster”.

[18] Melanie Reinhardt, Chiron and the Healing Journey, The Penguin Group, 1998, p.158.

[19] Tracy Marks, Planetary Aspects: an astrological guide to Managing Your T-square, IBIS Press, 2014, p.19.

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