“I find my zenith doth depend upon
A most auspicious star, whose influence
If now I court not, but omit, my fortunes
Will ever after droop.”
~William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act I, sc. 2
Astrology is the art and science of determining trends in a person’s life based upon influences conferred by various celestial points and bodies. These trends have shaped human history, determining the timing of everything from the planting of crops to marriages among royalty to the conduct of wars. Today, the most familiar usage of astrology among the general public is the daily and weekly horoscope one finds in the local newspaper, but to those who know and understand the secret language of the stars, astrology can reveal important information about what is behind us, what is to come, and what we can do to avoid or attract crucial growth influences in our lives.
Credit for the basis of astrology as we understand it today can be split between the Greeks and the Babylonians. The ancient Greeks first codified the ideas of dividing the nighttime sky into 12 equal sections, each encompassing 30 degrees, and the observations of the planets that gave rise to the knowledge that celestial movements and geometric configurations between heavenly bodies affected terrestrial events. However, the Babylonians first established the precursors of the 12 primary astrological signs and assigned these signs their ranking and importance within the zodiac. It is a melding of these two conceptual models with Western astronomy that has given us the system of astrology that we in the West are familiar with today.
Astrology was also known to the Chaldeans, the Norse, the Mayans, Incas, Aztecs and the Phoenicians, to name just a few. Initially ancient cultures used it to predict weather patterns and so determined the ideal time to begin planting and harvesting crops. Soon other underlying patterns asserted themselves and humans began using astrology to impart a degree of order on their world, which otherwise appeared largely to be chaos. As these patterns became more evident, rulers around the world began to rely on the counsel of priests and sages who counted astrological lore among the occult sciences they had at their command. The casting of horoscopes and the wisdom of the stars became state matters, guiding the political and military futures of nations and forever reshaping the face of the planet.
Over time, the knowledge of astrology filtered down to the common people, at first through garbled interpretations of the teachings of senior priests and then with more refined and precise information. In the Western world, by the early 1500s European rulers, nobility and even commoners relied heavily on astrology for guidance on everything from financial matters to the most auspicious time to conceive a healthy child. Astrological influences were so profoundly felt that the poetry and culture of the time could scarcely function without referencing them. Shakespeare’s plays often refer to astrological concepts and ideas, such as the infamous “star-cross’d lovers” Romeo and Juliet.
The basis of modern Western astrology revolves around certain points in the sky at a specific moment and as seen from a certain point on the Earth. These points are associated with different aspects of the human personality and specific qualities, as well as the four elements of creation. These points are:
|The Sun||The Sun: Associated with the heart, fire, youth and strong masculine figures and influences, the Sun moves through the zodiac at a rate of roughly one degree per day. It and the moon are the only planets that never move retrograde, or in reverse relative to the perceived motion of the zodiac.|
|The Moon||The Moon: Associated with the emotions, water, childhood and feminine qualities, the Moon spends about two and one-half days in each sign, passing through the entire zodiac in 28 days.|
|Mercury||Mercury: Associated with communication, earth, ages 12-18 and thought, Mercury always stays within 28 degrees of the Sun and moves through the zodiac at about one degree per day.|
|Venus||Venus: Associated with love, air, ages 18-25 and romance, Venus is never separated from the sun by more than 48 degrees. Venus travels the zodiac in roughly 225 days.|
|Mars||Mars: Associated with warlike activities and sports that utilize weapons, fire, ages 42-58 and active masculinity, Mars averages about eight weeks in each sign, but may remain in a sign for up to six months depending on where it is at a given point in its cycle. Mars traverses the zodiac in 585 days.|
|Jupiter||Jupiter: Associated with power, air, ages 58-70 and fortune, Jupiter moves through the zodiac in 11 years and 11 months and thus spends about one year in each sign.|
|Saturn||Saturn: Associated with time, earth, old age and discipline, Saturn spends roughly two and a half years in each sign, traversing the zodiac in about 29 years.|
|Uranus||Uranus: Associated with eccentricity, fire, the brain and revolution, Uranus passes through the zodiac every 84 years, spending seven years in each sign as it passes.|
|Neptune||Neptune: Associated with mystery and psychic ability, water, the lower bodily processes and addiction, Neptune spends about 14 years in each sign, or nearly 168 years circling the zodiac.|
|Pluto||Pluto: Associated with hidden forces, sexuality and dictatorial personalities, Pluto is the slowest-moving planet, spending from 12-30 years in a single sign and taking 254 to circumnavigate the zodiac. However, since Pluto was demoted to a microplanet in 2006, some astrologers no longer utilize Pluto in their horoscope creation.|
The Special Points: Consisting of specific points that occur in a given astrological chart, the Special Points indicate how a horoscope should be laid out. The First House is always located just above the nine o’clock point on the chart, also known as the Ascendant, and then follows the zodiac signs in their regular order (more on this below).
|Ascendant||Ascendant: The Ascendant denotes the start, or cusp, of a person’s chart and is based on what sign is on the eastern horizon at the moment of their birth or at the time the current chart is being cast for. It is always placed at nine o’clock. The sign directly above the Ascendant becomes the First House (see below) and the other signs follow this one in order.|
|Descendant||Descendant: The Descendant appears at the three o’clock position and is the cusp of the Seventh House, which indicates the sort of people to which the person may be attracted.|
|Medium Coeli or Midheaven||Medium Coeli or Midheaven: The MC forms the cusp of the Tenth House at the twelve o’clock position and is associated with one or the other of one’s parents, aspirations and life goals.|
|Imum Coeli or Bottom of Heaven||Imum Coeli or Bottom of Heaven: The IC forms the cusp of the Fourth House at the six o’clock position and is associated with the parent not denoted by the MC. It also links with the person’s deepest desires and foundations, both in life and in worldview.|
Other Special Points may be included by astrologers depending upon the complexity and detail desired in a given horoscope.
The Houses of astrology form the backbone of modern astrology by creating a framework against which the planets may be measured. Each House is associated with one of the classical elements and a modality indicating how the House interacts with both planetary influences and the other Houses. Each House has special and unique meaning to an individual person, depending largely on which House is directly above the Ascendant, as the order of the Signs (see below) which comprise the other Houses follow from this starting point.
|Modality||Title||Meanings and Associations|
|1st||Fire||Angular/Action||House of Self||Physical appearance and traits, first impressions and beginnings|
|2nd||Earth||Succedent/Security||House of Value||Material and money matters, property and self-value or self-worth|
|3rd||Air||Cadent/Learning||House of Communications||Childhood, communication, early education, intelligence and happiness.
Brief trips and vacations
|4th||Water||Angular/Action||House of Home and Family||Roots and heritage, maternal figures, domestic affairs and the ending of cycles|
|5th||Fire||Succedent/Security||House of Pleasure||Children, recreation, leisure, artistic pursuits, love and romance|
|6th||Earth||Cadent/Learning||House of Health||Jobs, skills, employment, overall health and pets|
|7th||Air||Angular/Action||House of Partnerships||Marriage and legal relationships, contracts and alliances, diplomacy|
|8th||Water||Succedent/Security||House of Reincarnation||Rebirth, transformation and personal growth, sexual and committed
relationships and occult or taboo matters
|9th||Fire||Cadent/Learning||House of Philosophy||Religious, ethical and legal bias and outlook, philosophy based on interaction
with other cultures
|10th||Earth||Angular/Action||House of Social Status||Societal status, motivation, ambitions, relationship to or as authority figure,
perception by an audience
|11th||Air||Succedent/Security||House of Friendships||Like-minded friends, socialization, hopes and wishes|
|12th||Water||Cadent/Learning||House of Self-Undoing||Seclusion, isolation, contemplation, mysticism, unknown enemies and
the subconscious or unconscious mind
Signs: Of all the concepts of modern Western astrology, the Sun sign is probably the best known. Pick-up lines such as “What’s your sign?” refer directly to the sign associated with a given person’s birth month. However, as the chart below illustrates, months as they relate to Sun signs are different than calendar months. It is important to note also that one’s Sun sign may not, and frequently does not, equate to the Ascendant or First House sign in a chart. The Sun sign imparts specific energies to an individual’s chart, but these energies are enhanced, altered or negated by the relative strength or absence of qualities associated with the planets and the arrangement of the Houses.
|Aries||The Ram||Fire||Cardinal||Positive||Mars||March 21-April 20|
|Taurus||The Bull||Earth||Fixed||Negative||Venus||April 21-May 21|
|Gemini||The Twins||Air||Mutable||Positive||Mercury||May 22-June 21|
|Cancer||The Crab||Water||Cardinal||Negative||Moon||June 22-July 22|
|Leo||The Lion||Fire||Fixed||Positive||Sun||July 23-August 22|
|Virgo||The Maiden||Earth||Mutable||Negative||Mercury||August 23-September 23|
|Libra||The Scales||Air||Cardinal||Positive||Venus||September 24-October 22|
|Scorpio||The Scorpion||Water||Fixed||Negative||Pluto (Mars)||October 23-November 22|
|Sagittarius||The Archer||Fire||Mutable||Positive||Jupiter||November 23-December 21|
|Capricorn||The Goat||Earth||Cardinal||Negative||Saturn||December 22-January 19|
|Aquarius||The Water-Bearer||Air||Fixed||Positive||Uranus (Saturn)||January 20-February 18|
|Pisces||The Fish||Water||Mutable||Negative||Neptune (Jupiter)||February 19-March 20|
Many people make the mistake of thinking that astrology foretells the future. This is not precisely true. Astrology is rather a divinatory technique, presaging trends and dynamics which may influence one’s outlook, perceptions or interactions with others. The difference between fortune-telling and divination is that the former says something must and will happen and there is nothing anyone can do to avoid it, while the latter says something most likely will occur unless appropriate steps are taken to attract or repel these influences. Therefore, one’s natal or progressed chart need not determine one’s entire future. Only you can choose which qualities and trends to embrace and enhance or reject and allow to wither, because neither the stars nor any other means of divination can override or trump free will. Keeping this important distinction at the forefront of one’s mind, we can see how astrology can be a powerful practical tool for seeing how one is progressing spiritually, physically, financially and in one’s dealings and romantic affairs with others, as well as highlighting areas of needed change or further consideration.
However, all this information is relatively useless without having a precise method for identifying and analyzing how the various astrological trends and influences fit together. Fortunately, just such a method for making sense of and applying the concepts of astrology to a given person’s life exists, as everything included in this article is the basis of the horoscope, or the distilled essence of all these elements into a chart which predicts the basic characteristics of a person and how those characteristics might shape or change one’s destiny, if one desires to do so.