What is Astrology?
An old Indian proverb suggests that several blind men were asked to feel various parts of the elephant and tell what the elephant must look like based on their individual assessments. The first man felt only the trunk. So he described the elephant as a long, cylindrical muscular animal with the ability to pick things up with the end of his body. The second man felt only the ears. He described the elephant as being a flat, floppy animal. The third man felt only the midsection of the elephant's body. He described the elephant as a large, round sturdy animal with lots of mass. Still another felt just the legs of the elephant. So he described the elephant as large, round and stocky with pads on the bottom. The last man who felt only the tail described the elephant as long and somewhat cylindrical, narrowing to a point at the end.
As each man had only felt a particular part of the body, the group as a whole was not able to arrive at a consensus as to what the elephant really looks like.
Had each blind man been allowed to feel the entire body, collectively they might have been able to come up with some consensus of opinion. But since they were each limited to a specific section of the body, no consensus could be found. So what? By not being allowed to feel all aspects of the elephant, the blind men’s descriptions of the elephant were not accurate.
You may be asking yourself what in the world does this have to do with astrology?
In reality, this has everything to do with astrology.
What in the world is astrology?
Astrology, astro-logos, is the study of the positions of the stars and planets in relation to earthly events. We tend to think of astrology as primarily relating to the chart of a person, but in reality, a chart can be done for anything that has a life, be it a person, a nation, a city, a country or even an idea.
The true "science" of astrology is more than what most people think. Most relate to their "sign", which is really their sun sign, or the sign in which the sun was sitting at the moment of birth. To an astrologer, however, the sun sign is not the entire picture. Astrologers take into account every planetary position at the moment of birth, with respect to the sign of the zodiac in which each planet was sitting, the angle at which each planet was sitting to one another, and also what house a planet was in.
As you can see by the above description of astrology, describing a person solely by their sun sign is doing him or her just as much a disservice as the blind men who were attempting to describe the elephant based solely upon one small but relevant body part, rather than the entire creature.
A Natal Chart: An analogy to a dramatic play
A play has (1) actors on the stage, (2) the personality the actors take on, (3) a setting, and (4) a plot.In a chart the planets in our solar system are analogous to the actors on the stage. Each planet represents a different human function. For example, the sun represents our life force -- our will to be.
The moon represents our emotions, our daily habit patterns. Mercury, the messenger god, represents how we think, how we process information and how we communicate. Venus, the goddess of love, represents what we love, what makes us content or happy, what we value. Mars, the god of war, represents our capacity to assert ourselves, to compete, to be aggressive. Jupiter represents growth, expansion, travel, understanding and comprehension. Saturn represents lessons we have to learn in life, how we deal with authority figures, time, discipline and structure. Uranus represents change, improvisation, experimentation, seeing the world in a different light. Neptune represents our capacity to dream, to imagine, to sacrifice. Pluto represents regeneration, letting go of the old and letting in the new.
Each planet sits in a particular sign of the zodiac. Like the actor on the stage taking on a certain personality for that particular play, each planet takes on the personality of the sign it is in at the time a person is born.
A chart is plotted on a circle, which we call the wheel. The wheel is divided into 12 divisions that we call houses. A house is like one of 12 hourly divisions on a standard clock.
Each house represents a different environment of our lives, such as career, health, relationships, finances, family, children, etc. Planets sit in one of the 12 houses, providing the setting where the activities occur.
The last, but by no means least important, component of the chart is the one analogous to the plot of the play -- the aspects. Simply stated, aspects are angles. Astrologers look at the number of degrees separating each planet from one another. Having studied charts for thousands of years, astrologers have observed that this angular relationship of planets is critical. And there are certain angles that seem to have a greater impact than others. The so called major angles are those where planets are 0 -10, 90, 120, or 180 degrees apart. The minor aspects are those where planets are 30, 60 or 150 degrees apart. And there are even less potent aspects, such as 135, 72 and others.
The aspects act like the plot of the play. They tell us how the planets (actors) interact with one another. They tell us whether the various planets are operating on the same plane as one another or if they are working at cross purposes with one another.
Those are the components of an astrological chart. As you can see, a chart is much more than simply the sign in which the sun was sitting at the moment of birth.
Tools for Looking Forward
A primary tool for looking forward is the transits, which is looking at where planets are now or at any given moment in time. The transits involve looking at where the planets are now in relation to their natal position. If a significant angle is created by one or more of the transiting planets to one of the natal positions, this suggests some sort of activity will be triggered. The nature of the activity depends upon which planets are doing the activating, the houses occupied by the transiting and natal planets, and the type of aspect created from the transiting planet(s) to the natal planet(s). For example, if Saturn is moving over where the moon was sitting when you were born (natal moon), this could suggest something critical is happening in your emotional or domestic life. The transits suggest external forces that influence you over the time they are in effect.
Another tool used by astrologers is the progressions. In various sacred writings there appears a suggestion that we count each day after the day of our birth as symbolic of a year of our life. This method is called the secondary progressions. For example, if you are 40 years old this year we would count down to the 40th day after the day of your birth and plot the planets accordingly on your chart. Since the inner planets (sun, moon, Mercury, Venus and Mars) move rather quickly, these are the progressed planets to which we pay the most attention. The outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto) move so slowly that over a period of 40 days (equivalent to 40 years of your life) their progress is negligible. One possible exception here is Jupiter. Although it is an outer planet it does move a bit faster than the other outer planets, so its progressed position may also be of some significance.
The progressions seem to influence us more from an internal perspective and suggest the growth or progress we are making as an individual.
Another tool utilized by some astrologers is that of the planetary returns, the most common being the solar return. A solar return is cast by plotting a chart for the exact moment that the sun returns to it's precise natal position by degree, minute and second. This is done annually. Generally your solar return occurs on your birthday. However, since the sun does not move exactly a degree a day, your solar return could feasibly occur the day preceding or following your actual birthday. The solar return is read as a chart that will influence you for the coming fiscal year from birth date to birth date.
Other planetary returns can also be plotted, such as lunar returns, which occur once every 28 days. However, the solar return is the most common.
Solar arcs are another method of looking ahead in a chart. The solar arc is the distance that the sun moves within the first 24 hours of birth, which will be somewhere between 57-61 minutes, or approximately one degree. For every year in question, each planet is moved forward by solar arc or approximately one degree. Therefore, all solar arc positions maintain the same aspects to one another as in the natal chart, since they all move forward by the same rate of motion. Solar arcs are relevant when they make aspects to natal chart placements and when transits create an aspect to a solar arc placement.
Here are a few places to start if you’re interested in becoming involved in astrological groups.