Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Astrology, The Practice.

In the previous post I spoke about astrology from a general point of view, explaining why I believe there are strong grounds for thinking it has some validity, particularly when it comes to character analysis. Here I would like to go into the nuts and bolts of it a little more, and to set out how it actually works by which I mean how an astrologer translates the pattern of the planets in the heavens into a description of how a human being manifests him or herself. I say him or her deliberately because astrology, like many occult or esoteric sciences, is very much based on polarity. All planets and all signs can be conceived in terms of masculine and feminine, whether it be Sun and Moon, Venus and Mars, Aries and Virgo, Leo and Cancer and so on. The fundamental principle of the manifested universe is duality and everything is built up from that basic structure. Astrology reflects this. 

The horoscope is a picture of the sky at the moment you were born as it appeared where you were born. So it would be different if you were born in London or New York even though it might have been at exactly the same time. This is because of the axial revolution of the Earth which makes the planets appear at different positions in the sky from the perspective of a person on the ground. Think of how the sun rises at different times depending on where you are and this should make things clearer. The planets will be in the same signs, which are represented in the outermost circle, because that is the backdrop of the constellations, and they will form the same angular relationships to each other. However, depending on our location, they will be in different houses, these being the slices of cake going from the inner to the outer circle and numbered from 1 to 12. The houses are calculated from the cusp (dividing line) of the first house which is the thick line in bold on the left of the chart pointing to AC and signifying the eastern horizon at birth. The others follow in anti-clockwise direction. The houses represent areas of life in which the planets within them operate while the planets in the signs reflect character attributes or the way in which the psychological principles represented by the planets act. The first, fourth, seventh and tenth houses are regarded as the most important ones though proper astrologers take them all into account. These are denoted by the thick black lines which point towards the AC (1st house - Ascendant), its opposite in the 7th house the DC (Descendant), the IC which is the 4th house at the bottom (Imum Coeli or Deep heaven) and, at the top, the MC (Medium Coeli or Midheaven). These are all important points as they represent the way you present yourself to the world (AC), the type of partner or 'other' you might favour (DC), your deepest sense of home and where you feel you are coming from (IC at the bottom) and your destiny, career, vocation (MC at the top). Planets in close relationship to these points are significant.

This might sound a little complicated but if you imagine the Earth as the little circle at the centre you can see that the AC is the point on the eastern horizon where the sun would be at sunrise, the MC at the top is the highest point of the chart where the sun would be at noon and the DC (western horizon) and IC are their opposites, the points of sunset and midnight respectively. The lower half of the chart, under the AC/DC axis is therefore the dark side and the upper, the light. This is my chart and I was born just after midnight (British Summer Time so 11.30 GMT) so you can see that the sun, whose pictorial symbol or glyph is the circle with a little circle inside it, is approaching the thick black line which points to midnight. As the Earth rotates in a counter clockwise direction the planets seem to move clockwise in the chart. If I had been born at sunrise the sun would have been on the line of the Ascendant. The same hold true for all the other planets but, of course, the sun is the most obvious.

I should point out that the signs in astrology, which are depicted by the 12 glyphs in the outermost circle, starting in this case with Cancer on the Ascendant, are not the same as the constellations though they have the same name. Roughly 2,000 years ago they would have coincided but because of the precession of the equinoxes they no longer do. Doubters seize on this to say that astrology is nonsense but the point is that Aries (for example) is not the backdrop formed by that constellation of unrelated stars but the 30 degree distance from the vernal equinox point with Taurus forming the next 30 degrees, Gemini the next 30 and so on in a circle. So astrology is really based on the solar system not the distant constellations at all. These form a backdrop used for purely descriptive purposes.

The main things in a chart are as follows.

Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars and their signs, houses and aspects they make to other planets. Then there is the Ascendant and Midheaven. Saturn is also important. Where the outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, are concerned, these mostly have significance in the angles they make to personal planets. 

The Sun sign is usually the thing everyone knows. I'm a Leo, we say. Astrology is a geocentric system (which does not invalidate it as it describes how things are from the perspective of the Earth) so this means that the Sun was between 120 and 150 degrees from the vernal equinox when you were born. The vernal equinox is the point when the sun on the path of the ecliptic crosses the plane of the Earth's equator at spring in the northern hemisphere, making day and night of equal length all around the world. So around March 20th. The ecliptic is the apparent path of the sun, and all the planets, round the Earth during the course of a year. Projecting the Earth's equator up into space gives two points of intersection with this at spring and autumn, and these are the equinoxes.

The Sun in a chart represents your basic sense of self. It signifies will, consciousness and individuality. It is the masculine principle and though, of course, possessed by both men and women, is traditionally stronger in the former as its nature coincides with theirs. Let us say that it is, as in this example, in Virgo. This implies that the person is methodical, orderly and discriminating but also can be critical and even a bit of a fusspot. The fundamental tone of Virgo is purity and this quality will be very important to anyone who has a strong Virgoan influence in their chart. But the subtleties of astrology mean that even the basic tone of something as normally dominant as the sun sign can be diminished by other factors in the chart if these go a different way. This is why a proper interpretation must take the whole into account. Again, doubters don't like this because it can seem that you are saying that if it works, it works, if it doesn't then something else is acting hence anything goes. But it is not saying that at all. Everything will have its reason and the reason can be given. It's just saying that astrology is subtle enough to take into account apparent contradictions in a person's character. If a Virgo Sun goes with a lot of Leo and Aries, fiery signs both, then Virgo will still be there but much less than if it went with, say, Pisces and Cancer. Incidentally I call Aries and Leo fiery signs because each one of the signs goes with one of the four elements so there are three signs assigned to each element. The weight of the elements in a chart should also be taken into consideration in an interpretation. 

When you interpret a planet in a sign you must also look to see what aspects it forms with other planets. The triangle at lower left shows the table of aspects, and the blue and red lines in the chart also show aspect connections. Aspects are angular relationships between planets in the context of the circle which is the map of the skies at birth, and are said to bring the qualities of the planets concerned into particular focus and show how the psychological functions that the planets represent relate. The main aspects are formed when planets are conjunct, opposite, at 60, 90 or 120 degrees of each other, and they can either bring the powers of the planets together harmoniously or cause them to clash, sometimes both. That's what the blue and red lines indicate in the horoscope. Blue meaning harmonious interaction, red more challenging but then blue can lead to too much ease of expression whereas red, because it challenges, can be more stimulating and potentially creative. So blue connections, which is some conjunctions, sextiles (60 degrees) and trines (120), can mean a smooth exchange of energy and show talents that come easily to us, while red can show a connection is made between planetary principles but it might be a difficult one, requiring effort to resolve and take forward though in the process there is the opportunity for learning and growth. I find aspects one of the most important parts of astrology. In this example there is a conjunction of the Sun and Venus which, other things being equal, tends to bring out charm, taste and artistic sensibility. Here it will moderate some of the more severe and 'puritanical' Virgo characteristics.

The Moon represents our habits and instincts. Along with Venus it denotes emotion but Venus is primarily about relating whereas the Moon is more to do with fundamental feelings such as those connected to childhood and our sense of security. It also speaks of the unconscious mind, the mind below the surface of everyday rational thought and ego sense. As this would imply, it tends to relate to the past and a more collective sense of self. In this chart the Moon is in Scorpio, in conjunction with Saturn and square (90 degrees from) Pluto. Traditionally this would not be regarded as a good placing. Scorpio gives intensity and power to what it touches but can be extreme and even destructive. This shows someone who has strong feelings but keeps them controlled. The square to Pluto (which rules Scorpio in modern astrology) just increases all these tendencies, giving powerful feelings which could manifest for good or ill depending on the subject's ability to control and/or transform them. The conjunction the Moon makes with Saturn could help here, giving the subject a degree of self-control and a sense of responsibility which nevertheless could also reveal itself in inhibition and emotional distance to others. Shyness in childhood is indicated as, figuratively speaking, the cold hand of Saturn chills and suppresses the emotional self represented by the Moon.

I'll go through Mercury, Venus and Mars quickly, just to give an idea of what they mean in a chart. Mercury reflects the way we think and communicate. Here it is in Libra, conjunct Neptune. The placing shows someone who is reasonable and tries to be diplomatic and fair, to see both sides of an argument. There is a suggestion of laziness. The aspect with Neptune shows an imaginative temperament, definitely someone who responds more to intuition than cold reason and logic. Not a fool (intelligence is not shown in a chart, merely the way we think) but someone more drawn to poetry and vision than hard science. With a challenging aspect there is the possibility of self-delusion and a confused mental state but that is not the case with the positive qualities to the fore.

Venus shows how we relate, what gives us pleasure and attracts us and how we express these things in the context of our personality. It is also supposed to have something to do with money. For example, Saturn tends to inhibit and restrict what it comes into contact with (see above) and a Venus Saturn conjunction is the typical indication of a miser though it might be fairer to call such a person someone who has a deep fear of scarcity and lack where money in concerned. In this chart Venus is in its own sign of Libra indicating someone who values grace and harmony and prefers to respond with courtesy and tact in most situations rather than abrasiveness or confrontation.

Mars indicates our drive and assertiveness. In a woman's chart it is said to show the sort of man she might be attracted to. Strongly placed by sign or aspect or closeness to the angles of the Ascendant or Midheaven, it would show positive qualities of courage and determination but, if functioning in an unbalanced way, then bad temper and aggression would be to the fore. Unless, as always, this was countered by other factors in the chart.

The sign positions of Jupiter out to Pluto (which by the way is still a planet in astrology) are not very relevant on an individual level as these planets appear to be so slow moving that their impact is generational. The way they interact with other planets in the chart is important though. Saturn's influence is always something to look for as it shows where we feel constricted or inhibited or where our fears and lack of confidence might lie. In the 7th house, which is the house of our relationships, it might indicate an older partner or a late marriage. Jupiter is the opposite. It reflects optimism and growth and tends to expands what it touches, sometimes over-expand. A conjunction of the Sun with Jupiter, for instance, would indicate jollity and generosity. Father Christmas must have one of these!

There's so much in a chart it can take a long time to go through it properly. I've just scratched the surface. But it's not hard to get a basic understanding once you learn the symbols and master the language. Also, I should say that astrology only indicates basic psychological types. Somebody could have been born at the same time as Shakespeare but wasn't a great playwright. Genius is not indicated in a chart nor is spiritual maturity nor wisdom nor goodness. Hitler's chart was not that of a bad person and I doubt that Jesus's chart would have indicated who he was. There is the innate quality of a person and there is the way that is expressed. Astrology only describes the latter. 

I don't regard it as a spiritual activity. However it does have much to reveal on a psychological level and gives an insight, I believe, into the workings of the inner universe. And though I say genius cannot be detected in the birth chart I should add as a proviso that this is with our current understanding of it. There may well be more to it than we now know. There are many things I haven't mentioned here such as midpoints between planets, connections to fixed stars and other sensitive points in the chart which are not clearly delineated by having a planet sitting on them such as the nodes of the Moon. Also, the aspects to the outer planets can have deeper meaning. But this all takes it into quite complicated terrain, and the truth is nobody really knows how far you can take it.  I do think, though, that it describes the outer self and its expression rather than the inner soul. Which would make sense since it is depicting who we are in this life, starting at birth and ending at death. It's a bit like a piece of music. Astrology might say that you are a symphony rather than an opera or a concerto or a folk song etc, but it doesn't say whether you're a good, mediocre or bad one.

Regarding the chart interpretation here, I have done what a proper astrologer would never do. That is, I have taken the constituent parts of it bit by bit rather than interpreting them in the context of the overall character of the chart. A good astrologer would look at the individual parts and then try to see them in the framework of the whole. Some bits might be subdued because of the overall tenor of the chart. Others might be emphasised. In this case the Moon would be regarded as important as it is the ruling planet of the chart. This is because it rules the sign of Cancer which is on the Ascendant. But I have not been interpreting this chart so much as using it to illustrate how astrology works. 

To sum up, Sun, Moon and Ascendant are the main things in a chart. Then Mercury, Venus and Mars. Saturn is important as is the Midheaven as it shows one's path in life both by sign and through planets which may aspect it.  But everything depends on what else is going on. Planets can be made stronger if they are near angles or in signs or houses they rule or emphasised in other ways, by aspect for example. Aspects are always important but they do depend on how tight they are. If the angular relationship is exact the influence is stronger but it can still operate up to several degrees apart, though the further away, the weaker the influence.

That may seem to be hedging my bets but it is true. And it's also true that one can do a better interpretation when you know a person because then you perceive how the influences work out in that individual. The element of individuality is always important since we are not machines. Inherited characteristics are also significant in a person's make up, of course, but these may be incorporated in the planetary positions which are probably best thought of as offering a description of a person not actually forming the nature of that person though, as I say, we just don't know. What we do know is that there is some connection between the position of the planets at birth and the form a person's character will take. I really do think there is enough evidence to say that we do now know this.

1 comment:

mondol said...

This post is so helpful to know astrology