Cassius: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)
You may recognize this quote from Shakespeare. If it doesn’t mean anything to you, perhaps you’ll remember the “star-cross’d lovers” of Romeo and Juliet. Astrology was all the rage in Shakespeare’s day. The sky was alive with signs, portents and omens for those with the acumen to read them. Fortunes were made or lost, nations rose to war or settled to peace, marriages and attempts at conception of children were all meticulously timed to coincide with auspicious signs from the heavens. Astrologers did a brisk business, and their advice was accorded the same gravity as that of royal advisers. Their advice often came in the form of a horoscope.
The word horoscope derives from an ancient Greek compound word, horoskopos, which means “watcher of time.” As with so many other innovations, the Greeks invented the art of astrology, imparting great weight to the geometry of the heavens and the interplay of the celestial bodies as seen from the Earth, which was believed to be the center of the universe around which all other bodies moved in their orbits.
Today, most Western astrology enthusiasts use the Greek definitions, embellished and modified as science and our understanding of the cosmos improved, as the basis for “casting,” or creating, a horoscope. The skies are still just as alive with portent as they were in Shakespeare’s day, but today we understand better that simply because a trend emerges in one’s horoscope does not mean that thing is automatically destined to happen. We still retain our free will, and so a horoscope does not say something must happen, but rather that it likely will based upon current celestial influences plus the innate nature and Sun sign of the individual whose chart is being cast.
Horoscope can be considered as one of the significant parts of the divine science of astrology. Its importance can be measured by how it is being used all over the world in different cultures and nations. Horoscopes are written in almost all newspapers and journals, magazines and webzines etc. because the demand from the readers is high.
The word horoscope conveys different meanings due to its numerous ways of presentations. In Vedic astrology, the illustration that represents the planet positioning in the solar system during the time of birth can be considered as horoscope. However, some people identify it as birth-chart because their idea of horoscope is the predictions that are based on zodiac signs only.
Some people are in doubt if horoscopes are really true and astrologically correct for the reason that there are only approximately twelve zodiac signs that will represent for a large number of living populace on earth. Hence, it is astrologically impossible to provide predictions for everyone using only twelve signs.
In its logical sense this is seem to be true. How can one correctly predict on individual level using only the zodiac horoscopes? However, in general viewpoint, an experienced astrologer can give predictions based on astrology principles relating it to zodiac signs. Therefore, it generally hold true for some people in wider perspective.
How to cast a horoscope
To cast a horoscope accurately, one must know a number of things about the person for whom it is being made. Each horoscope is unique, which is why the ones you may read in the Sunday paper speak to overarching trends and are otherwise so vague as to be nearly useless. A horoscope is actually a casting or erection of two separate charts: the recipient’s natal chart, depicting the position of the planets and stars at the moment of one’s birth, and a current chart based on one’s current temporal and physical location and the positions of celestial bodies at the present time. For our purposes, we will use the traditional Western zodiac, although Indian Vedic and Chinese zodiacs and horoscopes are also available and may be of equal or even greater value for some applications. At present, let it suffice to say that there is more than one way to cast a horoscope, and all of those ways are subject to interpretation and personal preference.
The beginning point for a horoscope is the exact date, time, and latitude and longitude of a person’s birth, as precisely as possible. This does not need to be accurate to the standards of a GPS, however. Standard latitude and longitude will suffice. Next, the astrologer refers to an ephemeris, a table of star and planet locations at given times. There are a number of excellent online ephemerides, or for those who intend to take up astrology as a profession you may wish to purchase a printed version. This allows the astrologer to cast the natal chart.
Once the natal chart is cast, the process begins anew with the intended recipient’s current location, the time in question, and the correct ephemeris data for both. Once both charts are complete, the positions of the celestial bodies “now” relative to “then” are noted. This allows the astrologer to determine what positive and negative aspects are in play in the recipient’s current life. This process may have to be repeated several times, if for example the recipient is going on a vacation far away from the current location or if travel difficulties are a concern.
The type of chart used will inevitably have an impact on the quality of the information derived from the natal and current charts. These are based on three factors:
House system used to determine the “houses” of the zodiac: This may be Placidus, where the arc of each house may vary significantly, or Equal House, in which every house of the zodiac is set to 30 degrees. Placidus is most commonly used today, but many astrologers prefer the Equal House layout as a more visually pleasing and mathematically sound system of arranging the chart.
Planets and celestial points included: The more data included, the more detailed the resulting charts will be, but the more difficult they may be to refine into usable data. Astrological computer programs are extremely helpful for more complex castings. The number of points may vary, but generally at least 11 are used. These are:
Pluto, although some astrologers have stopped factoring Pluto into their charts since it was downgraded from a planet in 2006. Some retain Pluto, but also consider its moon, Charon, which is about half the size of Pluto, and others consider the Pluto-Charon microsystem as a single planet, attributing aspects of both bodies to a chart.
Other points that may be used are:
Medium Coeli, or the “Middle of Heaven,” abbreviated MC
The lunar nodes, “Caput Draconis” and “Cauda Draconis;” literally, the Dragon’s Head and the Dragon’s Tail
Chiron, a comet discovered in 1977
Other comets, asteroids, stars, mathematically derived fixed points and planetary moons
The Ascendant, abbreviated AC.
As you can see, the addition of more points greatly increases the complexity, and available information, involved in interpreting the chart.
Aspects and orbs: An aspect is the angle that the past position of a given body has to its location now, as well as how it related then and now to other bodies in the chart. There are five primary aspects, codified by the Greek philosopher and astronomer Ptolemy:
Conjunction, in which the bodies are in the same position relative to one another as seen from the earth (i.e. they overlap).
Opposition, where the bodies are at 180 degrees from each other.
Trine, where the bodies are offset by 120 degrees.
Square, where the bodies are at 90 degrees relative to each other.
Sextile, where the bodies are at 60 degrees relative to each other.
In addition, we have two secondary aspects:
Quincux, where the bodies are offset by 150 degrees; and
Semi-sextile, where the bodies are offset by 30 degrees.
In addition, we have the orb of each aspect. The orb may be thought of as a “fudge factor” for a horoscope. The larger the orb, the less accurate the horoscope is likely to be. Many astrologers may assign a larger orb to a more important aspect and reduce the orbs relative to the overall importance of the other aspects or vice versa. However, the smaller the orb in a chart, the more likely the chart is to be truly accurate.
Finally, the signs governing each House must be considered, because where the bodies used as the initial data points rest in relation to the chart determines the outcome of the horoscope. The House/sign correlation is not a Greek innovation, but rather belongs to ancient Babylon. The twelve signs of the zodiac are:
Aries, March 21-April19
Taurus, April 20-May 20
Gemini, May 21-June 20
Cancer, June 21-July 22
Leo, July 23-August 22
Virgo, August 23-September 22
Libra, September 23-October 22
Scorpio, October 23-November 21
Sagittarius, November 22-December 21
Capricorn, December 22-January 19
Aquarius, January 20-February 18
Pisces, February 19-March 20
The sign you were born under is known as your Sun sign. Each sign further rules one of the Houses in your chart. The sign that was rising in the East at the moment of your birth is known as your Star sign. The Ascendant is always the first line of the zodiac, drawn at the nine o’clock position if we consider the face of the chart as a clock. The Houses are then ordered from 1-12 upward and around, placing the Third House at 12 and the 9th house at 6. Thus if your Ascendant or Rising sign is Leo, you would place this in the first house and then place the others in their proper chronological order around the chart from there. The meanings of the Houses are as follows:
First House: Governs your identity, how others see you and your overall vitality
Second House: Money and material items or things
Third House: Short-term travel, current environment and siblings, if any
Fourth House: Family and home matters, the father and domesticity
Fifth House: Creations, children, leisure and love
Sixth House: Work and health
Seventh House: Marriage, unions and agreements
Eighth House: Passion, transformation and sexuality
Ninth House: Spirituality, travel and abstract or intellectual matters and issues
Tenth House: Social and professional prowess and the mother
Eleventh House: Friends and supporters, both individuals and structures
Twelfth House: Secrets, enemies and trials
You may note that the Houses, because each occupies a 30-degree arc, share an aspect with each of the other houses. This means that the placement of planets and celestial objects within them may have surprising implications for other events within that house, even if the objects themselves do not form a relevant aspect.
When all of this is added together, you can see that there is much more to a horoscope than simply scribbling a bunch of lines. Novice astrologers are advised to start simple, increasing the number of data points and aspects they choose to include as they become more proficient. While computer astrology programs are helpful, it requires a human mind and knowledge of the recipient of the horoscope to glean meaningful, individualized information to the recipient.
Once all the information is distilled out from the charts, the astrologer may begin to draw conclusions and pass on the pertinent details to the recipient. This information is the basis of the horoscope, which then gives the recipient a good idea of what to expect over the time period in consideration. However, a credible astrologer will always note that although the stars predict what is likely to occur, they do not assure anything one way or another. Missing one’s plane or cancelling the trip will certainly change the character of the trends in play.
How to use a horoscope
A horoscope may predict possibilities, suggest opportunities or hint at potential pitfalls standing in the recipient’s way. However, the role of free will must not be overlooked, nor can the ripple effect caused by other people acting in concert with or opposition to the recipient. Also, too much information can be even worse than not enough, because too much information may paralyze the recipient while he or she considers what options may be best to take and what situations are best avoided. As a rule, you should not cast a horoscope for yourself for much the same reason a doctor should not attempt self-diagnosis. If you must, you should proceed with exacting care and brutal honesty about yourself and what is happening in your life.
A horoscope can be a powerful and meaningful guide for how to proceed when the way forward is not clear, or to peek beyond the veil of the future and see how today’s decisions may impact your future life. However, as with any other power, it must be used wisely, intelligently and responsibly. In some cases, as when the information in a horoscope is unclear, you may wish to use another divinatory technique such as Tarot cards or the I Ching to help clarify the information. Remember as well that horoscopes speak primarily to trends and forces, not necessarily individual events. This will help make the information you glean from your horoscope more relevant and meaningful, allowing you to make wiser decisions without falling prey to fear or uncertainty.