There is so much more to astrology than the sun sign and horoscope columns you read in the papers. If you want to learn about astrology, you’ve come to the right place.
Welcome and enjoy your astrological stay with us!
Welcome to the intriguing world of astrology! Whether a believer or skeptic, it is difficult to be neutral toward astrology’s mysteries. No one can honestly deny the impact astrology has had on cultures around the world. In the past it has been treated with contempt and amusement by scholars and historians. More recently, its influence on the course of events in history and contemporary culture is under closer observation.
The Guidebook is an overview of the world and practice of astrology. The purpose is to provide general information about various aspects of contemporary practice and its antecedents. Indeed, astrology is a controversial but culturally important phenomenon.
Click on the links to the right to begin your tour.
Astrology was originally an intense philosophical, psychological, and therapeutic system that could give detailed information about where we come from, the sort of person that we are, and how to utilize the different strengths and abilities that lie within our personality for personal benefit. New Age enthusiasts rely upon astrology for several main purposes: psychological understanding of one’s self and others, comprehension of the inner dynamics of relationships, planning events, and predicting the future.
Astrology is a complicated subject and a very fascinating one. If you’re a complete beginner, seeking an understanding of astrology, here’s the perfect place for you to start. The goal of this series of articles is to make Astrology accessible and educational for everyone.
This site covers the basics clearly and comprehensively and leads you forward toward a greater depth of knowledge. You can open this page, with absolutely no prior knowledge of astrology, and with a little concentration, learn everything you need to know to begin unraveling even the most complicated of horoscopes.
This small guide hopes to reclaim a little of that lost knowledge and will show you how you can use it to enhance your life choices this very day!
Guidebook to the World of Astrology:
The following is an introductory overview of the practice of astrology and important issues in the world of astrology. Your tour-guide is interested in both the history and practice of astrology, particularly issues of ethics, cosmology, and language.
Background on Astrology
What is Astrology?
A broad definition of astrology is the meaningful relationship of celestial phenomena, such as the movement of the planets through the zodiac, and activity on earth. Astrology primarily involves human active (both objective and subjective events) and has been extended to understanding of political bodies, weather phenomena, businesses, economics, etc.
Although astrology can be used in combination with other esoteric disciplines, it stands apart from other divination tools such as Tarot, Runes, I-Ching, Palmistry, clairvoyance readings, and other psychic tools. It should also not be confused with the Sun Sign astrology found in newspaper and magazine columns that use astrology as entertainment only. Although astrology can be fun and entertaining, the purposes and practice of astrology run much deeper.
At its formative roots, divination was the primary intention of astrology, but not the only one. Its advantage over the other tools mentioned above is astrology’s accurate timing. Astrology can be used to access the quality of time. For Plato, the Demiurge created the motions of the planets and stars as a part of the body of the cosmos and an image of eternity. In the dialogue Timaeus, Plato writes:
Therefore he planned to make a movable image of Eternity, and, as He set in order the Heaven, of that Eternity which abides in unity He made an eternal image, moving according to number, even that which we have named Time. For simultaneously with the construction of the Heaven He contrived the production of days and nights and months and years, which existed not before the Heaven came into being. And these are all portions of Time; even as “Was” and “Shall be” are generated forms of Time, although we apply them wrongly, without noticing, to Eternal Being. For we say that it “is” or “was” or “will be,” whereas, in truth of speech, “is” alone is the appropriate term; “was” and “will be,” on the other hand, are terms properly applicable to the Becoming which proceeds in Time, since both of these are motions; (36d-38a)
So we may say that the planets in their motion mark the flow of Time, the realm of the “Becoming” as an image of the Eternal. The Soul of the Cosmos, though, exists in Eternity. We are reminded by this Moving Image, through orderliness and return of Planetary motion against the background of stars moving in unison. But this World of Becoming, that of human existence, is the dwelling and concern of astrology. Philosophy may be seen as the thinking upon the relationship of the eternal realm, on Being (as Heidegger would have it), and the realm of humankind (which is the playing field of ethics and human relations). Without the application of philosophy (or rather, thinking) to astrology, it’s mystery remains unquestioned and it is seen merely as an instrument. But the practice of astrology, and the noting of its cosmic orderliness, can serve as a daily reminder of a realm beyond our daily existence.
It is no wonder that the developers of Western astrology as we know it today (Hellenistic Egypt circa 2nd Cent. B.C.E.) systematized the omen materials of the earlier Babylonian astrologers and used astrology where Greek philosophy left off – to make a science of that which seems accidental and contigent in our lives, and to identify our place in a cosmos with Fate at the helm.
In each astrological system, there are core methods that have to be studied carefully by students of that system. These core methods are reasonably consistent and reliable. In addition to this, each astrologer may have a preference for additional methods and techniques which should not be used as the basis of an astrological analysis, but may provide more details or serve as confirmation of a prediction.
Roots of Astrology
Why Study Astrology?
Astrology has been a part of civilization from the very beginning. Whether or not you agree with its efficacy, its cultural impact throughout the ages is substantial and foundational. It has a long history of being in and out of favor with the philosophical, political and economical elite. In spite of this, astrology continues to bring up the same issues again and again about human life in the world.
Astrology began as a system of omens based on planetary and stellar movements and appearances. These omens allegedly portended the agricultural threats and boons, political changes, and messages from the gods and goddesses of yore.
Western astrology later transformed into a more methodical system filled with various manipulations and judgements based on theoretical principles influenced by Athenian and Stoic philosophy. Horoscopic astrology developed in Hellenic times to make predictions and shed insights about an individual person. Astrological thinking has been woven throughout the history of such disciplines as art, religion, philosophy, sciences, language, mathematics and the recording of history itself. When the scholastic community ignores astrological thought and its importance it our history and current culture, it creates a fragmented view of humanity and berefts us of knowledge of alternative viewpoints to philosophy and metaphysics.
When you mention the word ‘astrology’ to an astronomer or other specialized scientist, you are likely to stir a gut level reaction beyond the scope of any rationality. Not only do they want people to stop confusing astronomers with astrologers, but they would see that interest in astrology be wiped out and erased from history, except as an example of ‘pseudo-science’.
Why all the fuss? The key may be in astrology’s claims of prediction. Modern science finds its way in the realm of human experience through the tools of biology and psychology. As with many areas of study, science would wish to subsume the innermost realm of human experience under its special discipline of physics. If skeptics are faced with a phenomena in the human experience that makes claims beyond the tangible and physical, they will find a reductionist explanation. When this doesn’t work, they resort to social psychology, one of the shakiest areas, hardly classified as a science, to explain away ‘belief’ in astrology as ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ and ‘self-delusional thinking’. This is the same type of thinking that reduces religious experience solely to biology and psychology.
More adventuresome physicists who realize that astrology does work will use contemporary theories of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, Chaos Theory and other alluring alternatives to fit astrology into a new model of science. These efforts, while an important area of inquiry, do not yet fully address the experiential realm of existence. Dealing with the question of astrology requires addressing fundamental principles of human existence, which is more of the realm of philosophy than physics. However, philosophers who address the issue of astrology should take care to examine philosophy’s own history and the theories which were rejected in favor of the theories which took hold and now shape modern thought.
For practitioners, students and clients of astrology, the workability of astrology implies a type of consciousness other than a reductionist one. Exploring this type of consciousness involves the task of dealing with Kantian transcendental ideas such as God, the Soul and the World without exchanging them for baser elements. This type of consciousness allows us to gain insights about others and ourselves through the reflected drama in the heavens. For the ancient thinkers, the planets possessed consciousness in themselves. Human beings partake in each planetary consciousness by an astral body of the same substance as the astral body of the planets and stars.
In spite of scientific objections, popularity in astrology is not on the decline but on the ascension. Proof of this is the larger number of astrology software programs on the market, the increasing number of astrological sites and email lists on the Web, and the enrollment in astrological organizations. Astrology has a multitude of uses and applications as will be detailed below. As a tool of consciousness, it can be used properly or abused. One of the most valuable uses of astrology is understanding of oneself and other people. Becoming familiar with someone else through intimate knowledge of his/her motivations and traits underlying their behavior can ultimately promote compassion and awareness.
Barton, Tamsyn, Ancient Astrology , London: Routledge, 1994.
Carey, Hilary, Courting Disaster: Astrology in the Courts and Universities of the Late Middle Ages. New York , NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1993.
Geneva, Ann, Astrology and the Seventeenth Century Mind, New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1994.
Hellenistic Astrology Translations, Hellenistic Track Volumes I – XV
Holden, James Herschel, A History of Horoscopic Astrology , Tempe, AZ: AFA, 1996.
Ibn Ezra, Abraham , The Book of Reasons, transl. Epstein, Meira.
Iamblichus, On the Mysteries, transl. Taylor, Thomas. Wizards Bookshelf: San Diego, CA, 1997.
Community Issues and the World of Astrology
The Public Perception of Astrology
Public perception of astrology has always been problematic. There are a number of more specific issues that involve astrology and the public, the main one which frustrates astrologers to no end is the uninformed public perception that astrology is equated with Sun Sign columns or ‘psychic’ abilities. If only I had a dollar everytime someone held out their palm when I told them I’m an astrologer!
These daily horoscopes are so easy to find and have been around for decades. Some astrologers believe this mass exposure to this very simplified and debased form will lead people into deeper study. Others believe that a campaign of public education is the only thing that would counteract the daily horoscope syndrome.
Why do so many people religiously read and believe Sun sign columns or call horoscope hotlines? For one thing, on a very broad scale, there are a few genuine astrological principles inherent in them – the basic characteristics of the 12 signs are easy to pick out and observe, even for people who would have a hard time understanding more complex concepts in astrology.
Speaking of predictions, daily columns can be fun little snippets of wisdom but certainly not a valid means of prediction in the sense that astrology intends. You may ask, what about weekly or monthly columns? Some skilled astrology writers are able to wriggle in some more fundamental concepts such as planetary transits, lunar cycles, retrogrades, etc. into there columns, thereby gaining more accuracy or meaningfulness. However, limited by sun signs, authors of columns still must generalize. Columns are no replacement for a full natal chart or predictive analysis by a competent astrologer.
Then there is the attack on astrology by scientists. In 1975, the threat of astrology was becoming so great that 186 scientists thought it necessary to sign a pact against astrology. Carl Sagan was a notable exception as a popular astrophysicist who refused to participate because this attitude shuts off further inquiry. The gridlock between science and ‘paranormal’ events is not likely to change anytime soon. See the “Why Study Astrology?” section for more information.
Astrology as a Profession
Although there have been a number of notable astrologers in early part of the 20th Century, astrology as a profession continues to be a tricky issue as the number of practicing astrologers increases. Let’s suppose that to have the talent and drive to become a professional astrologer may involve a particular personality type.
An astrologer is a type of person who can tough it out against conventional rules of society and in the face of opposition. This is a person who sticks to his/her convictions and who needs little external approval for what they know works, is helpful, and fits a more aesthetic, noetic, and intuitive model for metaphysics than science or modern western philosophy is able to provide or willing to touch. To borrow astrological jargon, astrologers typically have a strong connection to the planet Uranus which indicates the spirit of rebellion and revolution.
Given this profile of an astrologer, it is easy to see why there is much inter-community contention about systems, techniques and professionalism. Some prominent organizations such as NCGR, ISAR and AFAN have been plugging away at the issues of public perception and the profession. These organizations and several other ones around the world try to set and maintain ethical and technical standards.
However, as in any profession, strong personalities and competition for ‘the stage’ and resources can be counterproductive to astrology’s cause. All in all, however, conflicts in the world of astrology are no different than what you see in other fields.
There are a number of crucial issues surrounding the education of astrologers as well as standard setting. Many astrologers want standardized testing or certification because this may help the public make a better decision concerning the astrologer they choose. There are a number of people who claim to be astrologers – often these are people who work for psychic hotlines or who have not studied the craft with sufficiency. Marketers of these hotline numbers know that astrology has more respectability and consistency than the vague category of ‘psychics’. They often advertise their services as ‘psychic astrology’ though there are no standards for telling if person is really an astrologer or not.
Typically, the hotline employee on the phone asks the caller for their name and date of birth. They often never use the date of birth for their reading and hardly have the time to construct a chart based on this unless they also request a birth time and place given on the birth certificate. Hotline managers encourage the ‘psychics’ to keep the person on the phone for at least 40 minutes by never answering specific questions until toward the end of their long monologue.
Therefore, although the internet and increased communication among astrologers may help to improve the craft, the public still needs more quality information about astrology in order to avoid getting ripped off or misled. Debunkers would prefer to keep the public in ignorance of astrology’s vast history and eminent following.
Astrology and Science
The subject of astrology’s relationship to science is extensive, but one notable case should be expressed in this overview – the work of Michel Gauquelin. Gauquelin is a French scientist who set out to test astrology by means of statistics.
He gathered birth dates and times of prominent individuals of various professions such as atheletes, scientists and politicians, and had their natal charts calculated. What he found was that highly successful athletes had the planet Mars placed in particular zones. These zones were close to the Midheaven, the Ascendant, and to a lesser extent the Imum Coeli and the Descendant.
The results of the study showed the presence of Mars in these zones for the sample of athletes is far beyond statistical probability. Gauquelin found the same results for Saturn and prominent scientists. The other planets also correlated with different professions, but these studies did not test at statistical significance. The presence of planets on the four angles of the chart in astrology lore, would make them very strong, hence, influencing the person’s professional calling.
Scientific organizations set out to discredit Gauquelin’s findings, but CSICOP did end up replicating the study then covered up the results according to skeptic defectors.
Cultural Branches of Astrology
The most popular type of astrology today can be broadly called ‘Western Astrology‘. There are many subdivisions of western astrology, but one of the general characteristics (with a notable exception) is the use of a tropical twelve sign zodiac.
The tropical zodiac is defined by the first day of spring as the starting point of the yearly cycle of the sun through the twelve signs. This zodiac is based on seasons rather than the placements of the constellations from which the names of the signs were derived.
This zodiac is based on the Sun’s path through the ecliptic, a range of 23.5 degrees North and South of the earth’s equator. On the first day of spring (Vernal Equinox), the Sun will cross the equator moving in a northern direction until it reverses on the first day of summer. The equator, Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn are places on earth’s map which define the point of the Sun’s yearly path.
Another major branch of astrology is that practiced in India. This astrology is based on a sidereal zodiac, rather than a tropical one. There is also a branch of western astrology that employs a sidereal zodiac with western rules of interpretation, founded in the 20th century by Cyril Fagan. However Indian astrology (which is also called Jyotish and/or Vedic Astrology) had developed a very different set of rules and methods for prediction with their zodiac.
Indian astrology uses the twelve constellations from Babylonian, but also has an additional “lunar” zodiac based on 27 lunar constellations or Nakshatras.
These constellations are based on the approximate number of days the Moon takes to complete a cycle relative to the stars. Nakshatras are likely to be indigenous to the Indian culture. One of the most effective predictive devices of Indian astrology, the Vimshottari dasa system, begins with the Moon’s position through these lunar signs. The Moon in these signs is also used in Muhurta, the Indian ‘electional’ method of selecting the proper times to do things.
Babylonian astrology provided the basis for a new approach in the west after Alexander the Great. The astrology which provides the core methodology of using signs, planets and houses for western astrology practiced today can also be called Greek or Hellenistic Astrology, for most of the original source texts were written in Greek.
Hellenistic astrology as a syncretic system started in the 2nd Century BCE by a school of astrologers in the 2nd or 3rd Century B.C.E. in Hellenized Egypt, probably Alexandria. The earliest text, which can only be surmised by quotes from later authors is attributed to an Egyptian Pharoah and Priest, Nechepso and Petosiris. They are said to be of the Hermetic mystery tradition – so the origin of astrology is attributed in this tradition to Hermes.
The person or persons who created the system of 12 houses, the first Lots (mis-named Arabic Parts), and the use of aspects along with a myriad of techniques such as applications and separations of the Moon, Twelfth Parts (like a 12th Harmonic chart) and Transits to a natal chart, were likely trained in Athenian and Stoic philosophy. Though the roots of western astrology (not including the Babylonian omen lore which also includes exaltation lords and a few primary considerations such as planets in signs) are Hermetic, the philosophical underpinnings are not necessarily correspondent with the philosophical strata of Hermetic writings such as the Poimandres.
This new astrology spread far and wide in the Greek and Latin speaking world. Though writing in Latin, astrologers such as Manilius and Firmicus Maternus are practicing Hellenistic astrology. (Manilius’ poem, however, breaks with the Hellenistic astrology tradition in many respects and can’t be used as a manual for practice). Some of the astrologers include, Vettius Valens, Claudius Ptolemy, Antiochus of Athens, Paulus Alexandrinus, Hephaistio of Thebes, Anonymous of 379 A.D., Dorotheus, and fragments by a variety of authors.
Comparing Hellenistic and Indian Astrology
There are a number of striking similarities between Hellenistic and Indian astrology, and this is by no means a coincidence. Jyotish is closer in resemblance to Hellenistic astrology than to modern western astrology because the value placed on tradition in India and the strong teacher/disciple relationship has left some of the more fundamental parts of their practice intact from the 3rd Century C.E.
The traditional methods of Indian astrology were much better preserved than western astrology. This is further proof of the changes in the original methods in the western tradition in the Middle Ages. It also indicates that there was at some point in history a strong cultural contact between the Indian and Greek cultures through the Greek speaking Yavanas at the turn of the 1st millennium.
It is clear through the use of Greek words for Indian houses that at least the use of the 12 houses was derived from Greek astrology. Indian astrology also shares some features of Middle Babylonian astrology and omen lore.
Indian sidereal astrology has been gaining recent popularity in the western countries. There are now several centers for Vedic astrology in the United States, UK and around the world.
The increasing popularity of Indian astrology brings a particular problem to the table for the world of astrologers. How can two systems of the same twelve signs but different zodiac starting points exist side-by-side? How do we reconcile or integrate them? This problem will have to be approached carefully and with an open-mind in the 21st Century. Otherwise, the two factions could create more polarization in astrology than necessary. Some astrologers have been able to successfully work with both zodiacs, when maintaining the integrity of the system in which they are used.
The tradition of Hebrew astrology flourished in the Middle Ages along side of the newly emerging medieval tradition. Hebrew astrology can be classified as a cultural sub-category of western astrology because there is considerable cross-over of traditions as well as the use of the tropical zodiac. A popular medieval astrologer who wrote in Hebrew is Abraham Ibn-Ezra.
Jewish religious texts such as the Talmud and the Old Testament are filled with astrological lore. Rabbi Joel Dobin makes a strong case that the practice of astrology among Jewish people is a deeply integrated part of the religious tradition.
The technical aspects of astrology texts written in Hebrew in the middle ages are similar, if not identical to the early medieval techniques which emerged from the Arabic transmission of Greek and Persian material. The difference is the religious context in which the astrological indicators were interpreted.
An older substratum of Hebrew astrology can be found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. These few fragments are very unlike the Hellenistic astrology that was emerging at the same time. It may have been influenced by or evidence of the Persian astrology of which there are little surviving writings. The emphasis of Light and Dark recalls the Zoroastrian religion. One can compare the physiognomical lore to very similar material at the end of the Indian astrological classic, Parashara’s Hora Sastra. This omen-like material of reading bodily characteristics as personality or morality traits may have also been influenced by the Persian astrologers, or it was an independent development in India’s encounter with astrology and other methods of divination. It is also quite possible that the Hebrew astrology/physiognomy and this specific aspect of Indian astrology developed independently of one another.
Chinese astrology developed independently of the western tradition. They also have twelve signs, but ones based on a different zodiacal structure. One sign every twelve years could be originally based on the cycle of Jupiter, which takes approximately 12 years through the whole zodiac. The origins of this astrology are rather complicated but most of the methods may have developed in the time period equated with the middle ages in the west.
Most people tend to stereotype Chinese astrology as an over-simplified system of one personality type that applies to everyone in a given year. However, this astrology has a set of interpretative rules and divisions of topic in life equally complex as western or Indian astrology. One will note the cultural influence in Chinese astrology delineations that reflects the importance of family and ancestors.
The modern practice of Chinese astrology tends to focus on the Four Pillars and the 5 elements, Earth, Fire, Water, Wood and Metal. Each person has charactistics of four animal signs as well as four elemental combinations. The year, month, day and hour signs present different aspects of the personality.
As a hybrid of Indian and Chinese astrology, Tibetan astrology flourished more as an electional system rather than natal. In line with Tibetan Buddhism, these astrologers were less concerned with the fate of an individual and more concerned with using astrology to choose propitious times for rituals. Nevertheless, Tibetan astrology does have a system of good and bad years for an individual as well as incorporation of the Chinese zodiac animals. Like Chinese astrology, hexagrams from the I-Ching are integrated in the Tibetan system as messages about the cosmic mood of each day. This sytem of astrology also places heavy significance on the cycle of the Moon. There are certain days within that cycle which are better for meditation and certain days better for action. This method can be easily integrated in any western practice as well.
Other Systems: Mayan, Native American, Celtic, Burmese
As archeologists have come to have a better understanding of the unique Mayan calendar, many people have been trying to make sense of their calendar and astral ritual. Again, there are very little written records and the language, which is open to interpretation, makes it difficult to see whether they had a form of astrology, and if so what they did with it. The Mayan calendar is divided into segments of 20 days, completing a year of 260 days.
The calendar is primarily based on the cycle of Venus’ rising and setting phases. Each day had a particular being or deity assigned to it. Like Tibetan astrology, Mayan astrology was likely electional, or rather, for observance of portal days when gateways to shamanistic world are opened. Personal characteristics of the 20 characters or ‘Light Pulses’ are not necessarily based on archaelogical findings, but are creative ‘inspirations’ from various authors.
Native American Astrology
Most Native American tribes used a medicine wheel for rituals. The wheel is a reflection of the various phases of the Moon, and Native Americans were very aware of the astrological import of these astrological moments. Astrologers such as the late Robert “Buz” Myers have helped popularize the use of the medicine wheel with the lunar cycle. Some writers have recently created systems of Native American astrology based on cultural lore. In this relatively new fringe material, Western signs are replace them with figures of Native American mythology.
Celtic astrology with its 13 Lunar signs has become popular among Celtic and Druidic revivalists and fans. Although the exact purpose or construction of the monoliths at Stonehenge remains a mystery, it is certain that cycles of the Sun and the Moon were sacred to the ancient Celtic culture. A system of astrology based on Celtic lore (types of tree spirits constitute the 13 signs) has been recently promoted by Helena Paterson.
Burmese Astrology, also known as MahaBote, is derived primarily from Indian astrology. Much focus is placed on the planetary associations with the 7 days of the week. Its primary use is electional – for finding the appropriate days for particular activities. Relationship compatibility based on the day of the week on is born is also a consideration in this system. Like Indian and Greek astrology, MahaBote divides stages of life into different planetary periods.
DeFouw, Hart & Sveboda, Robert, Light on Life: Indian Astrology. London, England: Penguin Books, Ltd., 1996.
Parasara, Maharishi Brihat Parasara Hora Sastra, transl. Sharma. New Delhi, India: Sagar Publications, 1994.
Mantreswara, Jataka Phaladeepika, transl. Dr. Mrs. K.N. Saraswathy. Madras, South India: Kadalangudi Publications, 1983.
Houcke, Richard (editor), Hindu Astrology Lessons. Gaithersburg, MD: Groundswell Press, 1997.
Eastern Systems for Western Astrologers, York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1997.
Paterson, Helena, Handbook Of Celtic Astrology: The 13-Sign Lunar Zodiac of The Ancient Druids.
Modern Approaches to Western Astrology
Psychological, Spiritual & Predictive Astrology
One of the primary applications of astrology today is the study of the personality. This is done by means of the natal chart, which is a map of the planetary positions at one’s date, place and time of birth. The natal chart has been the primary chart used in western astrology from the Hellenistic period onward.
Today there are two basic approached to the natal chart and other subsidiary charts; psychological and predictive. These two approaches do not always get along, and astrologers often debates about the roles of psychology and prediction in astrology.
Astrology’s repopularization in the 20th Century occurred during the time of psychology’s new hold on the cultural psyche. Eminent psychoanalyst Carl G. Jung had a strong interest in astrology and began to examine it in the context of his theories of synchronicity and the collective unconscious. Along side of this development, belief in human progress through technology and evolution made astrology’s re-emergence seem absurd given its predictive nature and supposed fatalism. To adapt to the milieu, some astrologers followed Jung’s example and used his framework to explain the natal chart as a reflection of an individual’s connection to archetypes in the collective unconscious.
Famous psycho-analyst Carl Jung took an avid interest in astrology and attempted a study on marriage partners and Sun/Moon aspects. This can be found in his publication, Synchronicity. Psychological astrology has culminated in works by popular astrologers such as Liz Greene and Steve Arroyo.
As the field of psychology split into different theoretical directions, such as psychoanalysis, behavioralism and humanism, so did astrology adopt different approached to the practice. Dane Rudyar and Marc Edmund Jones attempted to ground astrology in the emerging human potential movement. This supposed that the natal chart shows ones potential that the person may reach in a nurturing environment and with a constructive cognitive attitude. Astrology in the late 60’s and early 70’s flourished in the ‘Age of Aquarius‘ trend toward mysticism, compassion, and self-discovery.
As mentioned above, Jungian analysis had a great influence on modern astrology. It could be considered a separate method of its own. The intentional of Jungian astrology may seem worlds apart from the original predictive nature of astrological pursuits. Meaning that takes on mythic proportions can be found in any life situation that is reflected in the birthchart, transits, or other methods of astrology. The technical specifics that one may find in, say, primary directions or timelord calculations is less important than the mythological or archetypal story that can be weaved from a few key threads.
In Jungian astrology, the planets and signs represent archetypes that can be signified by people and situations. Someone who is undergoing a Pluto transit to the Moon, for example, will find themselves in encounters with women (Moon) who are representative of mythological characters such as the Hindu Goddess Kali (the devouring mother) or Persephone (who had to spend half of the year in Hades). Invoking stories about these archetypal figures can bring understanding to the person about his or her experience and can provide navigation and meaning through times of various qualities. Jungian analysis does not need astrology, but can use the insight astrology provides into the quality of time.
One of the best examples of a Jungian/Astrological analysis is Stephen Nelson’s writing about the 2000 Presidential election.
Some astrologers took a different direction in the early part of the 20th Century. In Germany, a different school of astrology, known as the Hamburg School, developed out of a framework intended for prediction and scientific methodology to a certain extent. Astrologers of this school were inspired to postulate a series of hypothetical planets beyond the orbit of Neptune or Pluto called Trans-Neptunians.
Uranians also developed a system of midpoints, similar to the Greek formulae for Lots (also known as Arabic Parts). The midpoints are degrees sensitive to transits and the presence of other points in that location. A configuration of midpoints, a planetary picture, shows a complex of traits, issues and likely events. Alfred Witte and others devised sets of key words and concepts assigned to each planetary picture.
The use of harmonic charts, developed in the context of Ebertin’s Cosmobiology, is yet another aspect of the Hamburg School. Certain harmonic charts have a long history in Greek and Indian astrology. However, unlike in ancient astrology, the use of houses are de-emphasized in Uranian astrology.
Because the effects of planets on human behavior is considered scientifically plausible than the divisions of life into 12 regions of the sky, typical use of houses fall out of favor by some Uranian astrologers and Cosmobiologists in an attempt to pair down astrology to the essentials. ‘Harmonious’ aspects such as trines and sextiles are also typically eliminated in favor of the more difficult aspects (conjunction, square, opposition, semi-square) which are considered more intense. This special blend of Cosmobiology and Uranian astrology is called Symmetrical Astrology by Uranian promoted, Steve Lee.
Yet another type of astrology developed out of the Theosophical Society of Blavatsky and Besant. This astrology correlates the theosophical seven rays with the planets and signs. According to this system of esoteric astrology, each person has certain rays predominant in their personal chart. These rays correspond to the chakras or energy centers.
Esoteric astrologers also use the Earth and a hypothetical planet, Vulcan, as objects in the chart. This type of astrology reached the general public with popular works such as Alan Oken’s Spiritual Astrology.
An astrology-related school founded by John Dewey, the Foundation for the Study of Cycles, involves studying correlations between planetary cycles and world phenomena, particularly agriculture and the commodities markets. This is one way astrologers have attempted to conform the astrological phenomena to the scientific methodology. Again houses are eliminated in these studies.
This type of research on cycles that began mid-twentieth century is still used today by avant-garde stock and commodities traders.
Various Applications of Astrology
Personality and Relationships
As mentioned early, astrology is applied to study the personality and prediction of trends and events.
Another major application of astrology is in the context of relationships. Astrologers will compare two natal charts for compatibility. This use of astrology is highly valued in India where arranged marriages are still practiced today.
Relationships have always been a primary human concern. From a comparison of the natal charts, called ‘synastry’, an astrologer can see areas in which the relationship will be smooth or difficult.
A single chart may also be cast, a composite chart, which is based on the midpoints of each person’s planets.
Another chart, the Davidson relationship, used the midpoint in time and space between two person’s birthdays.
Astrology’s acumen in dealing with relationships, especially the question ” is this person the one?”, is limited given the complexity of what we learn from and how we interact with other people. A difficult relationship in synastry is not necessarily a ‘bad’ thing. In fact, it can make both persons aware of personal issues that they otherwise would not confront. However, these aspects do require a lot of awareness and caution, and this is often a very valuable contribution from astrology.
The branch of astrology that deals with world events rather than individuals is broadly called mundane astrology. Mundane astrology also deal with the natal charts of political figures for assessing world events. Charts for the founding of cities, states and countries are used in addition to general transits and planetary cycles.
The earliest omen astrology of Sumeria was primarily mundane astrology. This type of astrology was also very popular among the Arabs who translated Hellenistic works into Arabic. They infused medieval astrology with the popular mundane techniques such as the 20 year Jupiter/Saturn cycle.
Horary: Answer Specific Questions
Another use of astrology is to answer specific questions, such as where to find a lost object. Horary astrology has revived in popularity due to the interest in 17th Century astrologer, William Lilly. The charts found in fugitive Martin Frankel’s home, asking questions such as “Will I go to prison?” were horary charts.
Horary has a specific set of rules by which one can answer questions that a natal chart cannot address. This type of astrology is more akin to an oracle. Like Runes, Tarot or I-Ching, horary deals with specific directed questions and yes/no questions. This application has particular usefulness for finding lost objects.
Electing the Right Time
Choosing the best time to do things is one major advantage astrology offers. This application is called electional astrology. Desire for a successful outcome requires the advantage of good beginning. This type of astrology was practiced in the ancient world for agriculture and the inception of religious rituals. The system of Tibetan astrology revolves around selecting the right days for particular activities. This is partly how they accept astrology while trying to get around the implied fatedness that is seemingly incompatible with Buddhism.
Electional astrology is particularly useful for marriage, surgery, signing contracts, planting crops, taking tests and starting a business. Many of the rules of electional astrology are similar to those of horary astrology. The Moon proves to be very important in both applications.
Applications to Other Fields
Astrology is also used in combination with other disciplines to give an edge to various professionals who are more concerned with what works in practice rather than what hard-core science has to say. Practitioners of homeopathy and Chinese medicine often used astrology for individualistic assessment of how to improve and maintain health.
Many investors and financial analysts use astrology for trading. This is often done by means of very sophisticated software which keeps track of the first trade dates of companies, planetary cycles that appear to correlate with economic cycles and harmonic waves along with other traditional indicators. Many business executives covertly consult astrology for when to make their major moves.
Other new age practitioners combine astrology with shamanism, tarot, runes, Kabbalah, numerology, crystals, etc.
The applications of astrology in other professions is too vast to list here.
Main Techniques and More Techniques
The Natal Chart
The primary component of western astrology is the natal chart or birthchart, which was introduced in Babylonian astrology and developed by Hellenistic astrologers.
The natal chart is infused with the quality of the moment of time at one’s birth. It is based on the year, month, day, time, and place of birth. The hour-marker (horoscope) is the degree and sign on the Eastern horizon or Ascendant. The Ascendant and Midheaven (highest point of the ecliptic at the time of birth – also called M.C. for Medium Coeli) set the stage of the rest of the chart.
Without knowledge of the birth time, an accurate natal chart cannot be calculated. In cases where the Ascendant is not known, and astrologer may go through an elaborate deduction of the time based on major events in a person’s life. Rectification methods, as they are called, are rarely agreed upon by astrologers, and several astrologers will usually deduce different birthtimes given the same event data. Consistent practice on charts where the birthtime is known but concealed is the only way to hone skills in rectifying a birthchart.
Once the birthchart is calculated using a chosen house system, an astrologer will make use of several key considerations including:
- Planets in Signs
- Planets in Houses
- Aspects Between Planets
- Planetary Rulership (i.e., Mars in Taurus – Venus is the domicile steward of Taurus, Venus rules Mars.)
Modern techniques such as chart patterns (bucket, bowl, locomotive) and special considerations such as intercepted houses and aspect patterns (grand cross, yod) may also be considered from the natal chart. Most delineations for these combinations can be found in the abundance of popular astrology books.
Along with an analysis of the natal chart, astrologers use a wide variety of subsidiary charts and techniques not mentioned. Although the method and use of these techniques requires more detailed description, I will briefly summarize them below.
One of the main technique which is used by nearly all modern astrologers is transits. Transits are the positions of the planets in the signs at a given time. Transits act like a natural clock – they trigger various psychological and physical events through intensification of the qualities of the planets involved. The relation of the planets through time to each other through sign and configuration is looked at as well as the relation of the planets’ positions to the positions of the planets in the natal chart.
As a general rule of thumb, the transits of planets further from the Sun (such as Pluto, Uranus and Neptune) have a lasting long term affect when the come to the place or aspect with planets in the natal chart. Faster moving planets such as Mercury, Sun and Venus only bring about immediate events and emotions. However, the role of the faster moving planets are by no means insignificant. When they configure with the slower planets, they tend to work as messengers, dispatching for the slower planets at a more specific time. Once you assess a general trend in a persons life, you can fine tune the prediction with transits of the faster moving planets through the appropriate houses or natal planets.
There are a number of methods of moving the planets and angles in the natal chart through time and comparing these positions with the permanent natal positions. The most common of these methods is called ‘secondary progressions‘. Put simply, each day after birth is equivalent to a year of one’s life. The planetary positions and four angles (Asc. MC, IC, Desc.) for these days after birth are then compared to the natal planets and with themselves. Planets in secondary progressions do not move very quickly and the orb of aspect should be kept very tight.
Astrologers pay more attention to progressions of the angles and inner planets, especially the Moon, since they travel more quickly than the outer planets. Another thing to note in progressions is when a planet changes directions and turns retrograde or direct. This can indicate a life turning pointed related to issues signified by that planet.
Another popular method of directions is ‘solar arc directions‘. This method is very easily to calculate for all of the planets move uniformly at the rate of one degree per year. If you Mars is placed at 2 degrees Leo at your time of birth, 20 years later Mars will be 22 degrees Leo by solar arc direction. If, for example, Venus is placed at 22 degrees Leo in your natal chart, you may expect that year to be one in which romantic relationships become very significant and dramatic in your life.
One disadvantage of secondary progressions and solar arc directions is that the planets do not move very quickly in general. These techniques are more appropriate for larger trends and pinpointing eventful years. For more specific events there are two progression methods that move the planets along more quickly: minor progressions and tertiary progressions.
Although tertiary and minor progressions are based on a similar principle, they should not be confused with one another. Unlike secondary progressions which move one day in the ephemeris for a year of like, tertiaries are calculated so that each day after birth is equivalent to a month of one’s life. 12 days equals one full year.
Minor progressions (sometimes called lunar progressions) are more specifically based on the lunar return cycle. Following the day of birth, each return of the Moon to its zodiacal position is equal to a year of life. Minor progressions move along at a faster rate than tertiary progressions. I find them to be particularly useful indicators of prominent issues in a person’s life when used in connection with transits. The Moon’s movement through the houses is approximately one house or sign per month. This motion shows additional monthly themes along side of the Sun’s monthly transits through the houses.
Primary Directions are perhaps the oldest direction method; they were used by Ptolemy. Instead of using the longitudinal degrees, the rate of directions are from the ascensional times, or the rate at which a sign at a particular geographical latitude rises in the East. The Ascendant is typically the starting point for primary directions, but other planets can be used as well.
If directions move the planets through time, what happens if you move them backwards through time, prior to the birth date? Several astrologers are doing just that with converse secondary and tertiary progressions. Converse directions can be used as an additional overlay to direct progressions.
When planets meet up in the natal chart, the direction progressions and in the conversion progressions, you can expect that events related to that planet will be intensified or manifest at these crossings. Alphee Lavoie makes particular use of this method, (calls it the Alphee Twist) in his software and financial astrology work.
The use of return charts goes at least as far back as the Hellenistic tradition, though the original method of calculation and use was different than the modern one. The Solar Return chart was elaborated on and became a staple of western astrology through medieval astrologer Abu Mashar. Ancient astrologers did not look to favorably upon the planet returning to the same sign as that of birth. However, they primary had in mind the ingress through the entire sign while the modern use of return charts may be more specific.
In modern astrology, the solar return chart is calculated when the Sun returns to the exact degree and minute of the Sun in the natal chart. This occurs around one’s birthday. The affects of a Solar Return chart last for about one year. Some astrologers claim the chart can take hold a few months prior to the birthday.
The location used for the solar return chart is in dispute among astrologers. Some prefer to use the same location for the birth chart. Others calculate the chart using the primary living location for that year. Still others claim that the location where a person has traveled to on the birthday should be used for the chart for the entire year. Having heard testimony by persons who have traveled on their birthdays for a better yearly chart, I don’t think this method has much value. However, the primary living location is a better contestant with the birth location. If you consider the Ascendant and the houses as a major factor in the chart, shifts in location can make a huge difference in interpretation.
Other Planetary Returns
Charts based on the other planets, especially the Moon, can be calculated in a similar manner. For a returning planets, you can look at the condition of the other planets in the return chart to get a feel for what that cycle will be about. For the Lunar Return, you can read the chart as a snapshot of monthly activity. Especially note the house the Moon is in and aspects to the Moon.
Another debate surrounding return charts is ‘to precess or not to precess?’. Precession of the equinox will change the return position of the planets ever so slightly every year. One degree of precession occurs approximately every 72 years. A precessed solar return chart will look very different than a non-precessed chart because the Ascendant is very sensitive to the exactitude of the return degree, minutes, and seconds of the Sun.
Upon working with solar return charts for several years, I prefer to use a non-precessed Solar Return relocated for the primary living location. I place the solar return chart on an inner wheel and put the natal chart on the outer wheel. The angular, succedent or cadent positions of the Sun and the Moon are a key factor. The Ascendant and the condition of its ruling planet also show important trends for that year. Also, note conjunctions and close aspects between planets in the return chart and natal planets.
Celestial Objects: Asteroids, Hypotheticals, Stars and Lots
If the known planets and the Nodes of the Moon are not enough to tickle your fancy, there are numerous additional bodies and ‘points’ which can be placed in the natal chart. As mentioned before, there are a number of hypothetical Trans-Neptunian planets used by Uranian astrologers. These planets, including Zeus, Cupido, Admetos, Hades, Poseidon, Kronos, Vulcanus, and Apollo. These hypothetical planets have orbits at particular rates just like normal planets. The fact that for many astrologers they work so well and yield useful information is a sign that astrology itself is not dependent on the physicality of celestial objects.
The use of asteroids is one of the latest crazes in the world of astrology. It started with just four main asteroids, Ceres, Pallas, Juno and Vesta. Later added was Chiron, one derelict object that refused classification (is it a captured comet, asteroid, planetoid, centaur?).
Chiron was discovered in 1977. It is a special body which orbits between Saturn and Uranus. The meaning of Chiron has been explored since its discovery and quite generally indicates a deep sense of being wounded in some way. This feeling is transferred to an ability to help and heal other people through this empathy. Chiron is also the sensibility of universal or collective suffering – the Buddhist suffering inherent in all mortality.
The feminine mythology of these asteroids is favored by astrologers who have been promoting more complexity to feminine archetypes and more goddess recognition in astrology and culture. Since the beginning of the employment of the original four asteroids, countless additional asteroids have been cataloged and named. These asteroids are used by some astrologers in the manner of an oracle. If a certain person’s name is the same as or similar to a named asteroid, that person’s role in another’s life may be indicated by the asteroid’s place in the natal chart. A transit of an asteroid to a natal planet may bring things related to the name of the asteroid in that person’s life.
Additional developments in astronomy have lead astrologers to include various deep space objects beyond the traditional scope of astrology. These celestial objects include black holes, nebulae, the Galactic Center, and the rest of the constellations outside of the zodiac belt. The use of stars within constellations is nothing new however. Fixed stars as they were called (in contrast to the ‘wandering stars’ or planets) were used by the earliest astrologers.
The Babylonian and later Egyptian astrologers marked the rising of particular stars for important cultural and agricultural events. Hellenistic astrologers paid attention to the co-rising or co-culmination of fixed stars in a natal chart as a factor which could bring eminence to that person. The significance of the stars were based on the coloring and the corresponding planets (usually a pair of planets) assigned to the star. Ptolemy associated the rising of the stars with various weather patterns in “Phases of Fixed Stars”. The use of fixed stars survived in medieval astrology, particularly in horary astrology. There use has been revived in modern astrology through notables astrologers such as Diane Rosenberg, Bernadette Brady and others.
More points which can be included in the chart are not really physical or pseudo-physical objects. These are the Greek Lots, later known as Arabic Parts. Lots are an apportionment distributed by Moira (Fate). The primary lots are calculated by taking the interval between two planets, lots, or house cusps and projecting this arc from the Ascendant. The formulae change based on whether the chart is diurnal or nocturnal. Greek astrologers had about 94 lots to work with. Seven of these lots, Fortune, Spirit, Eros, Courage, Victory, Nemesis, and Necessity, were used as technique to read the whole life of the nativity. In Medieval times, the lots proliferated in the same manner that asteroids that can be included are multiplying today.
Each of the 360 degrees of the zodiac has a special oracular message for some astrologers. Degree symbolism became popular in part by the Sabian symbols which originated with psychic Elsie Wheeler and astrologer Marc Edmund Jones starting in the 1920’s. These symbols are used primarily for rectification purposes.
Additional methods of zodiac degree symbolism are available from other works by Adriano Carelli, Isidore Kosminsky and several others. Dane Rudyar also used the Sabian symbols of Jones/Wheeler and reinterpreted them in liu of the I-Ching. Lynda & Richard Hill have included an online Sabian symbol oracle on their website, sabiansymbols.com.
Another sub-trend in astrology is the use of a heliocentric approach. Instead of looking at the zodiac from the perspective of earth, practitioners of heliocentric astrology look at the positions of the planets with respect to the sun. This solar system orientation is primarily used for mundane astrology – weather and earthquake studies, stock market studies, major world events. The positions of the outer planets do not change drastically from the geocentric perspective, but the positions of the faster moving planets, Venus, Mercury and Mars, will differ significantly.
Ingresses of planets to signs are important in mundane astrology and were the equivalent to a transit to planets in that whole sign in the natal chart for Hellenistic astrologers. Astrologers may want to take a look at the heliocentric ingresses of planets for timing of world events.
In search of a feminine balance to the solar-oriented astrology of the West, some astrologers have been flocking to a different starting point for the twelve signs of the zodiac than the first day of spring (tropical) or the first star in the constellation Aries (sidereal). In this zodiac, the beginning point, the first degree of Aries, starts with the North Node of the Moon.
Because the Nodes of the Moon change with each natal chart, the draconic zodiac is personalized to each person. The Nodes of the Moon, aka, the Dragon’s Head and Dragon’s Tail, are the places in which the Moon’s declinational path along the ecliptic crosses with the path of the Sun. The Nodes are responsible for eclipses, mythologically, when the Dragon swallows the Sun or Moon.
One approach to planets in draconic signs is to treat them as messages about one’s spiritual purpose. The sign characteristics cannot be approached in the same way as the tropical zodiac – they do not necessarily reveal obvious personality characteristics. What they may show are how one approaches their purpose in life.
A person with several planets in Scorpio in the tropical zodiac may channel their drive to accomplish and intense emotions into a humanitarian effort or high-tech science if these planets end up in Aquarius in the Draconic chart.
A person with tropical Sun in Leo, who would typically be characterized as outgoing, may become more reclusive and mystical when the Sun lands in Pisces in the Draconic zodiac. The Draconic signs may reveal a hidden dimension to a person’s life – one which is not obvious to other people but apparent to that person.
Harmonic charts were developed in modern astrology as an additional dimension. They are similar in calculation to the the divisional charts such as the navamsa of Indian astrology.
The earliest evidence of what resembles a harmonic chart is found in Babylonian astrology. This was a Twelfthpart division where each sign of the zodiac is divided evenly into 12 parts corresponding to the 12 signs. These twelfthpart charts were then used as a technique in Hellenistic astrology. Only certain planets and lots were considered – Sun, Moon, Mercury, and the Lots of Fortune, Spirit and Eros.
Unlike modern harmonic charts and Indian divisional charts, this earlier divisional chart was used only in comparison to the natal chart, and not to be delineated independently. Following the example of the Greek dodekatamoria, Indian astrologers proliferated these divisions and currently use at least 16 different divisional charts, assigning to them different topics of life. Modern western harmonic charts are also used for different topics, based on the numerological meaning of the dividing number: 7 is the spiritual life, 5 is the artistic life, etc.
Antiscia and Contrascia
To be brief, these charts are calculated using the symmetrical point opposite a planet. The axis can be 0 degrees of the solsticial signs (Cancer, Capricorn) or 0 degrees of the equinoctial signs (Aries, Libra).
In Hellenistic astrology, signs which have an antiscia or contrascia relationship, such as Sagittarius and Capricorn using the solsticial axis, were considered as a mitigation condition for lack of planetary aspects. Capricorn and Sagittarius as signs next to one another make no aspect, by were considered by some authors as still having a relationships.
As a modern technique, exploration of how these “hidden” aspects can be used is still fresh. One experiment to try is to calculate the antiscia or contrascia chart of one person and compare it to the natal chart of another person. I have found this technique to be quite uncanny and it may reveal planetary combinations in synastry that would otherwise have gone unnoticed.
Asteroid Goddesses – Demetra George
Chiron: The Healing Journey – Melanie Reinhart.
Brady’s Book of Fixed Stars – Bernadette Brady
Sabian Symbols in Astrology – M. E. Jones
The Sabian Symbols as an Oracle – Lynda & Richard Hill
An Astrological Mandala – Dane Rudyar
Degree Symbolism – Adriano Carelli
Zodiacal Symbology & Its Planetary Power – Isidore Kosminsky
A History of Horoscopic Astrology &- James H. Holden
Astrolocality Astrology: A guide to what it is and how to use it &- Martin Davis