First Impressions- Eyeballing A Horoscope With Confidence(Part 1)
As Julie walks down a busy city street, her head is held low and her posture is sunken. She orders a coffee at a small outdoor café, but has to repeat her order twice because the man behind the counter cannot hear her. Her eyes are remote as she holds her purse tight to her body, walking onward.
Across the street, Robert either smiles or nods to people as he passes by. His gaze is steady and his head is held high, aware of what’s going on around him. He shares a laugh with the person at the newspaper stand as he tucks a newspaper under his arm, picks up his briefcase and quickly walks into a nearby office building.
Each and every one of us, every single day, creates a first impression and judges a first impression. It is natural, logical and meaningful. A first impression is like our business card. What does the card say? What colours are used? What does the card feel like? Would you save this card?
A first impression is valid because although it is easy to hide details about our life from someone, it is far more difficult to hide the essence of who we really are.
Take Julie, in our example. Our first impression upon observing Julie is that this is someone with low self-esteem. Our mind races to connect these dots with every observation we make…the posture…the barely-audible voice ordering coffee…the clutch of the purse. All these things compel us to render an immediate understanding of Julie- a value judgement in many ways. It is human nature.
With Robert, we feel his self-confidence instantly. We are pretty sure he is succeeding in life because of his ease of social relations, his briefcase, and the fact that he appears to work in a large building. Or, if he is not succeeding, that he soon will be. This may sound shallow when first considered, but you know it to be true in terms of perception. We want to believe in Robert. It is human nature.
By the time you have finished reading parts one and two of these articles, you will be able to look at a horoscope and be certain of your own first impressions of a horoscope from a psychological standpoint. Perhaps this will be so for the very first time in your studies. Perhaps it will reinforce some concepts you already know. Perhaps it will be news to you! In any event, if you stay consistent with this model, you will only look at a chart in one way again. The consistency will give you confidence and the confidence will give you a new lease in your astrological studies.
Forget, for a moment, all the things you have read about the importance of the Sun, the Moon and the Ascendant. Forget about signs too. Just think about the arrangement of a chart – including your chart! Where are the planets? Are they all clustered…are they all spread out? The first impression in astrology always, always begins with the arrangement of planets within the horoscope every time. Don’t even look at that Sun sign or Moon sign in the beginning. Just know where the energies are. Astrologer Noel Tyl points out that as we seek out symmetry with our eye (whether we are looking at someone’s face or a horoscope) we inevitably encounter that “special dimension” where symmetry falters. (1) It is this area that calls out for emphasis and awareness. Sometimes that means we are looking at a stellium. Sometimes that means we are looking at one planet on one side of the chart and the rest in the opposite part of the chart. So although it is also human nature to seek balance, to desire equilibrium, it is also human nature to need to understand and assimilate that which is not.
Are the planets mainly clustered to the Eastern portion of the horoscope, around the Ascendant? Then there is ego defensiveness and self-protection at work within the identity. This is because the Ascendant is about self-awareness, above anything else. Self-determination, self-expression…these are the components for a life that is conditioned around defensiveness.
Then think about the opposite end of the chart. What is the opposite of self-awareness? The answer is awareness of others, of course. The Western side of the chart, centred around the Descendant, is about others, plain and simple. A preponderance of planets here suggests the life is conditioned around giving to others, usually at the expense of ones self! Here we give oneself away and leave oneself behind in the process. This can be to ones detriment when taken to the extreme.
In the chart that is imbalanced either one way or the other, think of how much this says already – and you don’t even need to know their sign as of yet!
“Mary, the horoscope suggests there is a giving of oneself away here in life, leaving oneself behind. Where are you in all of this?” I have had many clients shed grateful tears at this statement and question, which usually occurs within two to three minutes of the consultation if they have this arrangement. A client is usually appreciative that there is someone who seems to understand their sense of identity loss, perhaps first within the parental realities and then perhaps within relationships, including marriage. And we can do this – feel this – more quickly than in any other humanistic discipline! Be confident in that. Know that it is simply so.
Take a look at Chart A, ‘Vince.’ Notice immediately (before anything else) the eight planets to the West. That is all we need to make the statement I made above. In this case, the chart is of a man who struggled with alcohol his entire life; he received a good-sized inheritance from his father but hung around the wrong crowd with his money, spending it on alcohol for his friends who had similar problems. He was always there for them and they were always there for his money. Leaving oneself behind indeed. That is how it manifested in this particular life.
Take a look at Chart B, Pastor John. This time, eight planets are in the East (self-protection, defensiveness). Why? “What is all this defensiveness and ego-protection I see at work here?” We learn that this is the chart of a dynamic small-town pastor for a non-denominational church, a man who grew up with many addiction problems and a family structure that exacerbated these difficulties. He endured many beatings, inflicted upon him by his own parents. Self-protection came naturally. Defensiveness is a conditioned response. It was not until he was in his early 40s did he find the church and begin a new focus and lease on life through this new lens. (Indeed, he has overcome much, but think on how religion can be a form of self-protection too.)
Now let’s think about the other key way a chart can be imbalanced. What if most of the planets are to the south, at the top of the chart? What does this mean? Essentially, external experience, because of the focal point of the MC, dominates the life. There is a sense of being pushed around by life’s circumstances – that the environment is fashioning a life for us, instead of the other way around. This is because the idea of an ‘anchor’ is seen at the IC, not the MC. Conversely, planets centered around the IC at the north show internal concentration. As Noel Tyl writes, it generally refers to “unfinished business” in the early home life and sometimes there can be so much unresolved preoccupation there that it confines the life. Internal experience is everything for the person who has this kind of placement.
Look at Chart C, which is Hollywood’s favorite Tom Hanks. We can instantly see that seven planets are above the horizon, including the Sun and Moon. This southern emphasis no doubt meant Hanks was swept up by his environment and pushed along by events that must have seemed like they were out of his control at many times. Of course, this is not to say we don’t succeed, obviously. It is a question, as always with astrology, how we will respond to the challenges inherent in the horoscope. On some level, Hanks must have triumphed in riding that feeling of no anchor, transforming it into a virtue, perhaps, in the courage he showed in responding to the environmental pressures. Now let’s blend the fact that Hanks also has far more planets to the East, too. What would we say to Hanks if he showed up on our doorstep for a consultation? That we loved him in The Road To Perdition? Of course! But what else? How about “Mr. Hanks, the horoscope suggests there is a great deal of self-determination and self-protection available here. Where does this come from?”
We want to know about this intensified self-awareness…how it began formation in his early home life for some reason that surely had to do with the way his parents modeled their own behavior. Wouldn’t you naturally protect yourself, too, if you were always feeling swept along by the world? That is the blend, organically. Specifically, it comes with client disclosure.
Look at Chart D, ‘Susan‘. Most of the planets are below the horizon, to the north, indicating unfinished business from the early home life. There are any number of ways in which development is suppressed in the early home environment. In the case of this woman, she grew up in a household in which the father was very quiet – he was also weak and ineffective and gender-confused. He used to wear his spouse’s undergarments and was once caught by his daughter. This cemented the image of her father figure within her psyche, and was a significant wound to carry for this woman.
Please feel the scenarios of development as opposed to memorizing the outcomes we have just discussed. This is very important. Many, many newer students (and even intermediates) get hung up on specific events and absolutes rather than appreciating the more simple and elegant themes. No two charts will ever be completely alike, no matter how many similarities may allow you the grace of deductions. This is what keeps us humble and steers us away from fatalistic tendencies.
Okay, we’re now ready to actually move into recognition of the Sun sign and Moon sign – astrology’s greatest signature, the Sun-Moon blend.
This is the widest stroke for understanding a natal chart. The two themes must be understood in tandem (ignore the Ascendant for now.) The Sun must be thought of as energy that is directed to the Moon to fulfill the reigning need. That is the simplest way possible to think of these two symbols. Read this over again. To deploy the Sun’s light it has to course through the Moon first. The Moon represents active needs. At this point, one really needs to be able to grasp the key words of all the signs from memory. Then, it is very easy to simply take descriptive words and infuse them with life, based on some of the information you have already gotten from the hemispheric analysis. (2)
For instance, in chart A, ‘Vince,’ the Moon is in Libra and the Sun is in Pisces. So the reigning need is Libran – the need for appreciation, peace, beauty, popularity. The Sun is in Pisces – energy for feeling, empathy, sacrifice. Now look back to our simple, simple analysis of the hemispheres in this case. We said that this man ‘gave himself away’ at the expense of himself. We learned he was alcoholic and that his friends often took advantage of what money he had to fuel their own addictions. How does the Sun-Moon blend corroborate this, logically? It is obvious that his need for appreciation was so great and the energy he had available for sacrifice and empathy was so strong that the alcoholism fits perfectly, tightly within our building scenario. This does not mean that all Moon in Libra, Sun in Pisces people are alcoholics. But from the details the client shared along with analysis, we see how astrology and life intersect. We see how developmental scenarios bring symbols to life.
Let’s do one more. Chart B, Pastor John. The Moon is in Pisces, the Sun is in Scorpio. Lots of water; we feel it instantly. The reigning need is for sacrifice, understanding intangibles, and figuring out ideals. The Sun is in Scorpio, where there is much energy to control by knowing, to reach great depths and heights, to be significant. How do we blend these? We said this man was defensive and self-protecting. One way of being protective of oneself is to lose oneself in idealism (his Moon), which, for him, meant alcohol earlier in his life, then religion in the current life pattern. The self-control he now has through religion is piped through the idealistic Moon.
The Ascendant is best thought of as something that reinforces the Sun-Moon blend, including expanding or tweaking it. In Chart A, Vince, the Ascendant is Scorpio so we get the outward control of the emotions; yet at the same time we reinforce the watery nature that is so important in the Sun sign. In Chart B, the pastor, we have Libra rising, that appreciation and popularity energy. Wouldn’t you want to be popular and appreciated, given the childhood the pastor had? Wouldn’t you work to ensure that you would achieve this later? One can’t go wrong with a small congregation, hinging on your words each Sunday. That is a Libran dimension with the Ascendant. In summary, Sun-Moon blends first, then tweak with the Ascendant to reinforce your initial deductions.
Saturn Retrograde and the Lunar Nodal Axis
Alright, now let’s next move to the next two key things to look for in our scenario of building a chart analysis meaningfully, consistently. After you have looked at hemispheric emphases, you should next check to see if Saturn is retrograde. Not Mercury, Venus or Mars at this point – just Saturn. Thirty years ago Noel Tyl uncovered one of the strongest, consistent symbols we have in measuring the potential for the ‘absent father.’ Saturn Retrograde is that symbol. With Saturn Retrograde, the father was absent or was there physically, but was weak, passive or even tyrannical (or a combination of both). But in some way the authoritative love we expect from a father is missing with this signature. It is true 85 per cent of the time, if one had to make a guess statistically. Think about the lives you know with this signature. Think about your own life if you have Saturn Retrograde. Sometimes it is that the father was working all the time and never seemed to be home. Sometimes he is so passive, quiet, as to be rendered invisible in the family structure, with the mother in control of things. Sometimes this is from alcohol, sometimes not.
What is important, though, is to preserve the integrity of the meaning with the understanding above. Its level of manifestation is diverse.
The other thing to look for is the Lunar Nodal axis configured with any planet, preferably through a major aspect. Not just the North Node or the South Node separately. We are speaking of the axis itself and in psychological astrology there is no needed differentiation between the two. When this is the case, there is a maternal complication of some sort, usually manifesting in a way that means mother ‘ran the show.’ Mother is dominant in the client’s life. (3) Why? Often, it is through default with the Saturn Retrograde symbolism. If the father is weak and ineffectual, the mother often must step up to the ‘plate’ and be the main family force. The family dynamic is cast. Lives grow outward from this and new patterns begin that can reinforce the old.
Take a look at Chart C, Tom Hanks again. Saturn is retrograde and Mercury makes a tight quincunx to the Nodal Axis. It is well-known that, although Hank’s father, Amos, got custody of his children, he was always on the road travelling. There is the ‘absent’ father. In Hank’s case, though, the Nodal Axis emphasizes the maternal complication we learned about earlier, not the more common instance where the mother tends to be dominant within the life physically, mentally, emotionally. But his mother and her welfare was probably deeply embedded within his psyche. We would want to know how this complex scenario with his mother affected Hanks as he grew up.
Take a look at Chart D again, Susan. Saturn is Retrograde and the Sun is square the Lunar Nodal Axis. We know then how the ‘weak’ or ‘ineffectual’ father existed in this woman’s life – the gender identity issues he had. The Sun is square the nodal axis and mother did indeed run the household. The father was simply ‘not there’ in the manner of authoritative love we expect from a father. The mother stepping up on some level to run the household just makes sense. Through client disclosure, we are confident in those first assumptions. Then, you can begin building the scenarios of development from there. It’s that simple.
Never forget the validity of that first impression. You know it to be true in life; the people we meet we ‘size up,’ and in so doing we form an astute imprint in our minds about the underlying foundation of the person before us. Certainly, as we get to know that person, we see other sides, but those other sides generally reinforce what we have first concluded. The life is merely extended, the development merely shaded in within your firmly-pencilled drawing You know this to be true in life. Astrology is life.
1. Tyl, Noel, Aspects and Houses In Analysis, Volume 4, The Principles and Practice of Astrology, St Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 1974, p. 3.
2. Tyl, Noel, Synthesis and Counseling in Astrology: The Professional Manual, St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 1998, p 65.
3. Ibid, p. 49.