WHAT IS ASTROLOGY, ANYWAY?
INTRO TO ASTROLOGY
Astrology (from the Greek, meaning “study of the stars”) is perhaps humanity’s most ancient method of interpreting the great cycles of life. Astrology is the study of the cosmic relationship that we have to the vast energetic rhythms of this corner of the Universe. It is a symbolic language that encompasses both our small, everyday life and Planet Earth’s relationship to the rest of the nearby cosmos. It is both a spiritual art and a practical science based on precise calculations.
Astrology works because life works. Everything is cyclical in nature, and everything is connected. Life is fundamentally ONE—indivisible, unified at a subtle level. To quote the great Leonardo da Vinci, everything is connected to everything else. We, as human beings, are connected to the Cosmos.
Astrology is based on an understanding of the great Hermetic principle, As Above, So Below.
There is a correspondence between planetary patterns in the heavens and events which occur on Earth. The cosmic rhythms provide a forum whereby energies can manifest themselves in visible reality.
This actually has less to do with the physical planets themselves than with the energy fields they exude on a subtle level. We experience them because of the aforementioned interconnectedness of all life. No matter how far the distance or invisible the currents, we live within a vast matrix of cosmic energy. It affects us profoundly. Quantum physics is currently finding that things do not need to be connected in time and space to affect each other. This, in essence, is a validation of humanity’s ancient wisdom.
An astrologer is one who interprets the energetic effects of the great cosmic rhythms as they apply to life on Earth. Astrology, simply put, explains life’s cycles—why something happens when it does, and to a certain degree, why it happens.
We are born into the middle of a great Cosmic Dance. We take birth under a matrix of energies which then unfold in specific and predictable ways. The celestial bodies create continuous energy patterns between themselves and Planet Earth, which are mathematically precise, and as these patterns change, so do the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Events in our lives tend to correlate with the harmonious, discordant or mixed energy patterns.
And because everything is based on mathematics, and the known movements of the planets, astrological predictions can often be very exact.
Astronomy and astrology were once considered one and the same thing. Astronomy is now completely concerned with the purely physical attributes of the planets, stars and general cosmos; astrology is concerned more with meaning.
Centuries of study of this celestial matrix have produced generally accepted meanings for the planets, the zodiac signs, and for the patterns they make. And we can see astrology in action every single day.
There is what I call the Law of Coherence: things happen in cosmically understandable ways. We tend to fall in love or get married under a strong Venus transit to our birth chart, get promoted under a lucky Jupiter transit, experience hardships under a harsh Saturn transit—and, needless to say, astrologers are not surprised
Astrology, with its symbols, helps us grasp a bit of our cosmic purpose in life. And it does seem that this also corresponds to the physical movement of the planets. Things happen when they’re supposed to. Literally, it’s all about the timing.
The Magi, who found the baby Jesus, were astrologers. After all, they “followed the star.” (Probably the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in Pisces in 6 BC, with Mars or Venus also tied in.) U.S. President Ronald Reagan used an astrologer to time the political summits with Russian Premier Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s—which caused a firestorm when it was discovered but which also allowed Ronnie and Gorby to meet at cosmically harmonious times and facilitate the end of the Cold War.
Many prominent business leaders have used astrology to achieve greater success in life. J.P. Morgan once famously said, “Millionaires don’t use astrology. Billionaires do.” Even the great scientist, Sir Isaac Newton, had an interest in astrology. Sir Edmund Halley, discoverer of Halley’s comet, scoffed at him for this. Newton is said (perhaps apocryphally) to have replied to him, “Sir, I have studied it; you have not.”
So we should cease viewing astrology as something silly, untrue or superficial. It has great depth to it, because it concerns our place in the cosmos and pinpoints our various life cycles precisely. It has very practical applications. So it is not necessary to “believe” in astrology. It is a symbolic tool for understanding. And it simply works.
Before we do anything else, let’s deal with a perennial controversy head-on: Has our zodiac sign changed?
RELAX—YOUR SIGN IS STILL YOUR SIGN
I was once called by a reporter after Pluto had been demoted to dwarf-planet status and asked how it would affect astrology. I said, “It won’t. Nothing has changed energetically. Astrology will work anyway.”
Many are concerned about “not being the right sign” after the (very old) news occasionally flares up about the physical constellations being out of alignment with the zodiac signs. My answer is always the same: Nothing has changed. Astrology still works.
Those who disparage astrology usually have a field day using the information (known to both astronomers and astrologers for centuries) that the Earth’s spring equinox has drifted away from zero degrees Aries in the sky and now resides in early Pisces. This shifts the physical position of the zodiac signs backwards in relation to the Earth, so if you were born a Libra you could now call yourself a Virgo.
But please don’t. Let me explain.
This is actually an argument between two different systems of measurement. The signs have always been measured from the spring equinox, when day and night are of equal length.
But the Earth does not spin in an upright manner. Instead, it wobbles on its axis. This creates a slight variance, so the “tropical zodiac”—Aries, Taurus, etc.—does shift its position backwards a tiny bit each year. This effect is called “the precession of the equinoxes.”
So yes, the signs have changed their positions in space. 2,000 years or so ago, when astrology was systemized, the equinox and signs coincided. They have since separated by about 24 degrees—24 days difference. Eastern astrology—Hindu, Tibetan, Chinese, etc.—continues to use these coordinates. This is called sidereal, or star-based, astrology
But Western, or tropical astrology, instead uses as its starting point Earth’s relationship to the Sun, in which the equinox stays steady to within 24 hours each year. Aries still begins around March 21st, no matter where in the heavens the zero point of Aries actually falls.
So don’t worry; your sign is still your sign. You are not going to suddenly develop qualities of the other signs…unless you really work at it. And you haven’t lost anything, either.
About that 13th sign: It didn’t just pop out of nowhere.
Ophiuchus (Oh-FIE-uh-cuss), “The Serpent Bearer,” hovers near Scorpio but lost out in the celestial lottery back in ancient times when it was decided that Scorpio was closer to the Earth’s actual path through the heavens, and thus worthier of inclusion in astrological systems. The Earth tools through space like a planetary Buick, and the 12 zodiac signs are those that coincide with Earth’s path.
There could be even more: Cetus, “The Whale,” and the constellation Auriga are also nearby. But the ancients stopped at 12.
It requires about 25,800 years for Earth to complete a full swing of its axis. So it takes slightly over 2,000 years to move backwards through one zodiac sign. Perhaps you’ve heard of the “dawning of the Age of Aquarius”? Well, it’s true—it’s an astronomical fact that Earth is now at the pivot point between the 2,000-year-old Age of Pisces and the upcoming Age of Aquarius. Those hippies in the 1960s were right
Not wearing bellbottoms today? It’s enough to recognize the essential truth that they perceived, that we are literally entering into a new age and a new vibration. Astrological tradition states that the Age of Aquarius will be much more egalitarian, freedom-loving, spiritual and peaceful. Events today show the conflict between the incoming energies and the crystallized attitudes and institutions which resist them.
We can’t hurry the dawn…but we can’t prevent it, either.
ELEMENTS OF ASTROLOGY
I like to use a baseball analogy when describing the various parts of astrology, and it goes like this: The planets are the players in this cosmic game; the zodiac signs are the teams on which they play; the houses are the stadiums they play in; and the aspects describe the balls and strikes of the game itself. So let’s go through and describe them in greater detail.
PLANETS, ASTROS, NODES
The source of all life around us is the Sun, which sits at the center of our solar system. Likewise, the Sun in astrology represents our connection to our central core. It powers the flavor of our personality. Everything else in our birth chart is secondary to its glowing power. So when we take birth under a particular Sun-sign, it gives us the opportunity to shine out in a particular way. Here sits our pride, confidence, need for appreciation and love. Our talents and ability to express ourselves are symbolized by the Sun. It’s classified as a masculine energy in astrology because it is an outpouring force. When someone says, “What’s your sign?”, this is what it means: Through what prism is your Spiritual Light shining? That Light, that innate blaze of glory in you, is represented by the Sun.
By polarity with the Sun, the Moon is classified as feminine because it represents the creative, intuitive and receptive principle in us, and works mostly through our feelings. Our emotions and reflections are ruled by the Moon, the stirrings we can’t ignore. Our moods and memories are symbolized here, the inner portion of us that lies in our deep recesses. Without the Moon, we would remain attached only to the outer world, ignorant of our inner self. But the Moon shows our flow, our emotional connection to others and to a deeper place in ourselves. No empathy, inspiration or attachment to family is possible without the energy that the Moon brings. Magical as Night’s light on still waters, the Moon keeps our secret, subjective, interior self afloat. It’s where we just know, because we feel it.
In ancient times, Mercury was called the Messenger of the Gods. Intelligence itself, the mind-force, is symbolized in astrology by Mercury. In modern terms, Mercury is all about information and data, rather like a computer hard drive. Your I.Q. and how you actually think are ruled by Mercury, as are speech and communications. Cell phones, computers and such are Mercurial, as is simply being mercurial—prone to quick change or lack of direction. Schooling, social media and useless trivia come under Mercury’s sway, as does body language and perceptions generally. Grasping a concept, being witty, using your hands to keyboard an idea or handwrite a note—all of these items make Mercury tick. Fluid as quicksilver and the patron of writers, Mercury is happy when words ignite and the brain lights up in comprehension.
Despite her reputation for merely being synonymous with love, Venus actually is a multi-tasker when it comes to pleasing. Sure, Venus represents the pleasure principle per se, but more than anything else, is about Harmony. Beauty and fashion are always the passion under Venus’s seductive eye, as is the harmony of feeling that produces love. Smoothness, not tension, is her calling card, an ability to integrate line, color, concepts, bodies and energies into a perfect whole. Sometimes she produces art, design, and symmetry; Venus is the charm of a soft voice, a hat that “goes with,” everything flowing, and things (and people) not being at odds. She’s about peace, diplomacy, the sweetness of life, and all those desserts. She co-rules sex but is more about the kiss. Venus rules life’s pleasures, La Dolce Vita; but her signature says “love.”
A forceful presence in more ways than one, Mars is in charge (and I mean Charge!) of the action element in life. Assertive—or more crudely, aggressive—to the max, Mars puts his dukes up and dares life to take him down. So the departments of courage and will and being active rather than passive come under his aegis. Physicality is the name of the game, the raw power of just doing it. This means sex, too. More generally, it’s the power of desire. Mars cranks it up to eleven when it feels the need. Competition, conflict, violence and war are aspects of the same Mars energy when directed toward selfish ends. And Mars is usually only about Number One. The personal ego is symbolized here, so the energy can be crude if not linked to other benevolent aspects. But if the need is to bring out a shield or face down great odds, Mars is your man at the ready.
Living large is the only way to go for Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system and the symbol in astrology of abundance and all things fortunate. Jupiter represents both luck in life and the expansiveness of our soul. Growth, physically and in our consciousness, comes under Jupiter, who in Roman times was called King of the Gods. Things which expand our mind with meaning, such as religion and philosophy, also belong to him. Far horizons or higher education are among Jupiter’s gifts. Being “jovial,” having a buoyancy of spirit, fits the energy of Jove (Jupiter’s old name).
Optimism is his calling card. He rules faith in a good outcome, personal promotions, even name and fame, and has a marked inability to say no. More is better. To him it’s all part of the joy of life. But for real perspective that expands awareness, Mr. Big—Jupiter—rules.
“No, you can’t have a cookie. And get off my lawn!” That’s Mr. Saturn in a nutshell. He represents boundaries, limitations, tradition, and sometimes endings. He loves rules and authority. Saturn is Mr. No, the taskmaster, the teacher who demands you do your homework in life. He’s about discipline, and accomplishment through hard work and long effort. He gives maturity, practicality, and, eventually, wisdom. Saturn’s energy can be melancholy or depressive, and he is known as the Lord of Karma. Nothing gets by him, and as we learn our lessons, put things in the proper order in our life and simply grow up, Saturn becomes our friend—or at least the wise old man we like to hang out with. He represents doing what needs to be done, and rewards us, if we eat our veggies, with a dessert that’s good for us. Maybe not too sweet, but worth it.
Personal freedom and individuality are the specialty of Uranus. Being who YOU are and no one else, living in a manner that befits your energy, depending on your own flashes of insight—Uranus is the lightning bolt energy that shakes up “the normal.” Uranus rearranges our consciousness and life, often very suddenly. It rules breakthroughs and breakups, instability, the weird and unexpected, a revolution. Sometimes chaos results; sometimes the light bulb goes on and we see as we’ve never seen before. This futuristic bent gives Uranus rulership over modern technology like television, the Internet, computers and electronics, science and mass communications. High intelligence and innovation, swiftness and embracing the new—Uranus is where our own genius lies
Life needs magic, which is where Neptune comes in. He rules the spiritual element in life, the hidden reality where dreams really do come true. Escapist daydreams and real visions share a Neptunian quality—they represent a break from the the mundane side of life. So do glamour and romance, fantasy and the willing suspension of disbelief. Thus, Neptune can also represent buying into illusion, delusion, and confusion. Drugs, alcohol and religious lifestyles which deny the world’s reality fit here in Neptune’s net. But he can also give intuition and inspiration, real spiritual attunement. Poetry, dance, music and film all have a Neptunian bent. Neptune dissolves boundaries between the real and unreal, leaving us to discern the difference. Compassion, selflessness, caring for others as we care for ourselves—Neptune shows us how all life is One.
It’s not easy to be intense all the time, Pluto manages it because that’s his job. The Lord of Death and Rebirth, Pluto is about breakdown and regeneration, which is not exactly a walk in the park. Under Pluto’s jurisdiction comes decay and necessary loss. It’s only then that he can set about repairing our life in a deep way. Pluto’s primary characteristic is POWER.
There’s nothing wishy-washy about his energy. He’s about where and how we hold power—sex, violence, being a plutocrat (powerful person). Pluto is the mythic ruler of the Underworld; he’s associated with things beneath the surface of life, like occult powers, archaeology, literal birth and death, surgery and atomic bombs—which are made from plutonium. Pluto is the fearsome darkness that gives light if overcome, the inner power that comes from resurrecting our deepest self.
Formerly called an asteroid and now labeled a dwarf planet like Pluto, Ceres in astrology is in charge of nurturance and unconditional love. She is the ancient archetype of the Great Mother (Demeter in Greece, Ceres in Rome) and so has to do with soft caregiving and sometimes fierce protection. She represents the extension of ourselves without a thought of return. Originally a goddess of the grain, she rules food issues, empathetic emotions, taking care of oneself along with others, parent-child relationships and the ability to live in a healthy, natural way. Ceres is the love that feeds you breakfast (the word cereal is derived from her name) and sends you out the door with a kiss, then sits down and weeps “just because.” She symbolizes the challenge of giving without personal attachment, and the nurturing beauty of endless lovingness.
Either a comet or a minor planet, Chiron’s elusive scientific designation befits his astrological reputation as a maverick. His erratic orbit was found in 1977 at the midpoint between Saturn (known for ages) and Uranus (only recently discovered), so he represents the “Rainbow Bridge” between old and new systems of knowledge. Named after a centaur (half-man, half-horse) who was a great healer, yet who couldn’t heal himself, Chiron has been called “the Wounded Healer”— representing the holistic, integral arts and of going one’s own way. He is both the physical or psychic wound, and the means to heal it. He symbolizes issues that need resolution, ultimately leading to an integrated personality and a successful life. Sometimes representing a mentor or guide, Chiron is the astro-shaman who cures trauma through his right use of knowledge.
An asteroid associated with the Greek goddess of creative intelligence who sprung from the forehead of Zeus, Pallas Athena in astrology is about the use of our mental capabilities. It takes intelligence to comprehend the patterns and experiences of life; Pallas speaks to how we think. In fact, Pallas Athena symbolically reveals consciousness itself. Her symbol of a long spear shows the qualities of a sharp mind, able to cut through mental fog and reason well. She is one of the indicators of IQ and of creativity. Pallas Athena was the patroness of the city of Athens in Ancient Greece, where wisdom was revered. Her placement in the birth chart can indicate the essential quality of a person’s mind. Pallas is symbolic of how much control, or lack thereof, a person has over their own thoughts. Pallas Athena is wisdom personified.
Juno is an asteroid named after the wife of Jupiter (also called Hera, wife of Zeus). Juno rules the principle of relating per se. She represents marriage and partnership, whether personal or professional. Juno is concerned with sharing, so her concern is equality and fairness between partners, personally and in society at large. Like her ancient counterpart, Juno can also represent righteous anger at personal injustices and society’s ills, and a great sense of justice.
She is about agreements made in a marriage or business deal, committed sexuality; she is the Significant Other even if the partnership not traditional. Juno is the stabilizing factor in a partnership, and if not well-aspected can indicate relationship problems and personal spite. Juno is the divine soul mate, the harmonious give-and-take energy that makes a relationship or society work.
Vesta is an asteroid named after the goddess who traditionally ruled the home and hearth. As the Vestal Virgins were keepers of the fires which protected the city of Rome, so in astrology Vesta represents the heart’s purity and commitment to a higher purpose. Sexual dysfunction, a vow of celibacy or a practice such as Tantra fall under her domain. Vesta basically indicates the quest for personal wholeness and happiness.
As one’s domicile also symbolizes one’s psychic space, Vesta is known as the protector of the physical home and one’s personal growth into autonomy. She is about creating a safe space and then working within it. Vesta is associated with finding security in one’s life, whether through family or financial means, emotional/sexual work, or spiritual upliftment. Vesta protects through personal self-integration.
THE NODES AND ARABIAN PARTS
There are several other “players” on the modern astrological team—mathematical points in the sky which are deemed to have particular significance. The most important of these are the Nodes of the Moon.
Earth’s Moon has an orbital axis, the points of which are called the North and South Nodes. These occasionally cross the Earth’s orbit in space (the ecliptic). This generally happens twice a year, and it is this alignment, which causes eclipses
When not exactly aligned with the Earth, the Nodal Axis of the Moon still rotates, though in a counterclockwise direction to the Earth. From our perspective, this causes the Nodes to move backwards through the various zodiac signs. This movement of the Nodes, and their placement in a birth chart, is considered vital in modern astrology, giving clues to the soul’s evolution.
THE SOUTH NODE
Sometimes called “the dragon’s tail,” (and named Ketu in Vedic astrology), the South Node is an indicator of one’s past. It shows past life talents and circumstances as well as comfort zones and early conditioning in this life. It is a storehouse of accumulated skills and attitudes. It’s also a sexual release point and one’s erotic proclivities can be seen here.
The South Node is essentially about one’s karma, where we’ve been, not necessarily where we are going. It’s a “been there, done that” sort of energy that is about familiarity, not challenge. It’s easy. It can indicate karmic rewards when well-aspected, personal weaknesses and inertia when it is not. The South Node says, “Let it go…or make good use of what you’ve learned.”
THE NORTH NODE
“The dragon’s head” (Rahu in Vedic astrology) is important in a chart because it indicates a new direction in one’s evolution.
This is untilled ground, energy that is usually unfamiliar to a person and therefore not easy at first to cultivate. It can be scary for this reason. Circumstance often conspire to place us in a position where we need to develop skills we have not developed in the past.
This Node represents our future, rather than our past. The North Node is the high diving board we tremblingly climb, the direction we cannot turn away from, the skills we need to master in order to grow as an individual. This is the life destiny point, where we find an individual’s real life direction. It can be very surprising—especially to ourselves!
The Vertex is another, secondary axis in the chart further representing how karma works out. The Vertex is called “the Part of Fate.” Circumstances and meetings that seem fated, that turn our life around, often occur when there is a transit to this mathematical point, which is determined by the time of birth. It is always placed on the right side, the western side, of the chart, representing meeting oneself in the outer world.
Its opposite point is called THE ANTI-VERTEX, and can represent a point of liberation from the fates symbolized by the Vertex. It is a point of self-determination. Fate simply gives us what we need to fulfill our destiny. In the Vertex/Anti-Vertex axis we find a subtle but important clue to our individual fate.
THE PART OF FORTUNE
This is a mathematical point in the chart calculated by adding the degrees of the Moon and Ascendant (East Point) and subtracting the degrees of the Sun. It represents the point of self-integration, where the principles of self-expression, inward development and outer personality come together. As such, it’s lucky. Transits to this point often coincide with great good fortune.
ZODIAC SIGNS & ELEMENTS
As the Earth revolves in space it turns every two hours to face one of the twelve clusters of stars that hang in the endless void somewhat parallel to the line of the Earth’s orbit in space.
There continue to be occasional reports of thirteen or fourteen total zodiac signs (see note below this section), but the ancients generally accepted only twelve. These are the signs that form the basis of what is called tropical astrology, based on the Earth’s revolution in space.
Zodiac signs divided into two polarities, designated as masculine and feminine. These are not gender-based labels, they are actually more symbols of active or receptive energies which alternate as polarity rulerships. Aries, for example, is largely identified by its outpouring force; hence, it is designated as masculine. Its energy moves outward. Taurus is identified by its more peaceful, passive quality. Taurus holds space, rather than being an initiator of energy. So it is identified as feminine. We can list the signs’ polarities thusly:
It should be noted that these polarities are often varied in their effect. Gemini, for example, is often called neither masculine nor feminine, and is noted for its intellectual, gender-bending energy. But for handy notation, it is listed as masculine.
Scorpio for many centuries had Mars as its listed planetary ruler, giving it a masculine cast even while identified as a feminine sign. So the polarities are not absolute, and often blend in a unique manner.
A sign’s quality (or technically, mode) is derived from how the energy actually flows, or acts, in that particular sign. There are three categories: Cardinal, Fixed and Mutable.
Cardinal Signs are initiators, they act as starting points and contain motivating energies. The thrust that acts as a beacon for a new cycle of life is described by Cardinal Signs.
The Earth’s solstices and equinoxes occur at the beginning of the Cardinal Signs—Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn—initiating a new season (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) whenever a Cardinal Sign is reached.
Fixed Signs contain sustaining energy, a form of “stick-to-it-iveness.” They’re about continuity, steadiness, follow-through. Things would remain exactly the same, if Fixed Signs had their way. This is the dream of Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius.
Mutable Signs like to mix it up. Change is the name of the game here, variety is the spice of life. Mutability actually means continuous change, and the energy of the Mutable Signs—Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces--reflects this fact.
Astrology began in the Northern Hemisphere, and the Vernal (Spring) Equinox always occurred around March 21st when the Sun entered the sign of Aries. So Aries was always considered the first sign.
The signs have one of the four classical elements (Fire, Earth, Air, Water) assigned to them, which describes their essential nature.
Fire signs are all about action, spontaneity, direction of force. Enthusiasm is their watchword; planning—not so much. Seeking Truth wherever it can be found; restlessness and conflict; all originate here. Fire was classically considered the element of Spirit Itself—the state of pure Being.
Earth signs are considered, like the planet itself, to give physical solidity, practicality and concern with everyday life, an appreciation for visible enjoyments. Reliability is valued and a concern for security counts for much. The approach to life is generally cautious.
Air signs correspond to intelligence, rational thinking, communications, social mingling. Here we find the mind at work, the search for clarity and the world of ideas. The urge to comprehend and express ideas finds its outlet in study, speech and writing, much variety of activity.
Water signs rely more on feelings than thoughts. This is the energy which unifies all life. It produces intuition, empathy, emotional connection and various moods. Romance, family bonds, personal creativity all belong to a consciousness attuned to the flowing energies of Water Signs.
Each sign also has a corresponding Planetary Ruler, one of the planets that best expresses the sign’s energy. As the ancients only knew of the planets up to Saturn, planets were assigned astrological rulership of two different signs in the classical system. Modern astrology has expanded the planetary rulerships to include Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Thus:
ARIES: Masculine, Cardinal Fire Sign, ruled by Mars
The term go-getter was invented for Aries. It is raw force, very impulsive and not especially directed. Aries energy is all about enthusiasm, motivation, starting something. Follow-through is not Aries’ strong point. This sign can be conflict-prone (Ares was the Greek god of war), but if you want courage, initiative or a competitive edge, Aries is where you find it. Planets placed here are raring to go. This often manifests as impatience and self-interest, where nothing matters except personal goals and moving full speed ahead. Physical activity is Aries natives’ salvation, creating an outlet for their fire. Aries energy burns.
TAURUS: Feminine, Fixed Earth Sign, ruled by Venus
This is the energy you need for actually getting something done that requires patience, which Taurus natives have in abundance. Steadiness is their virtue, stubbornness their vice. They don’t like change; they would prefer that things go on exactly as they are, forever. That’s because they are focused on creating security. Earthly life and its pleasures are what they value most, including money, love, sex, artistry, family and Nature. They enjoy quietude and are generally not very talkative. But solid, salt-of-the-earth Taurus likes it that way. Someone with planets placed in Taurus is a force of Nature.
GEMINI: Masculine, Mutable Air Sign, ruled by Mercury
Classically called “The Twins,” Gemini energy speaks to life’s duality. It gives one the ability to either be two-faced or multi-faceted. The emphasis is on the intellect, where curiosity and a hunger for knowledge make Gemini the sign of intelligence and study. Communication skills are intimately associated with Gemini and its ruler, Mercury. Writing, speaking, fluid movements and sometimes gender-bending sexuality come under Gemini’s aegis. So do social media and quick trips around the neighborhood. Planets here may be unfocused, but they urge us to learn something new, and live a life of variety.
CANCER: Feminine, Cardinal Water Sign, ruled by the Moon
The sign of the Crab is sensitive, privacy-oriented, and very concerned with family and emotional security. Cancer natives feel their way through life. This makes them nurturers, empaths and healers par excellence, but can also lead to needy behavior and excessive moodiness. Cancer is associated with the Great Mother. Caring for others and feeling safe is important. Cancers cling to memories, are great financial savers, and love Nature. And heaven help the one who attacks someone dear to them! Cancer is also the Great Protector. The Moon in all its magic and mystery envelops the sign of Cancer.
LEO: Masculine, Fixed Fire Sign, ruled by the Sun
The Sun is also a star, and it lends a natural aura of glory and light to the sign of Leo. Its duty is to shine, and that’s what Leo does best. Natives are always seeking opportunities to stand out, receive the attention they feel they rightfully deserve. Leo is the sign of the limelight, of social prominence and personal magnetism. Leos revel in spectacle and much personal drama. Prideful yet generous to a fault, they can be touchy when not given their due. Laughing and childlike at times, at others authoritarian and egotistic, Leos are the real life of the zodiac’s party. They wouldn’t have it any other way.
VIRGO: Feminine, Mutable Earth Sign, ruled by Mercury
Everything has its place is the motto of Virgo. Precision of the mind and everyday life makes Virgo natives an indispensable handful. Detail-oriented and practical, Virgo is the sign of both service and ego-submission. Its ruler Mercury gives Virgos an acute mind and analytical emotional nature. Excessive worry may manifest in neuroses or physical problems. Virgos feel a stoic acceptance of suffering is part of their life’s duty. They adapt, regardless of the personal cost, often disappearing into a job or relationship. Perfectionistic, and willing to give, Virgos love purity of body and mind, and an orderly mundane life.
LIBRA: Masculine, Cardinal Air Sign, ruled by Venus
Libra is most associated with a sense of balance. Harmony and cooperation are Libra’s highest aspirations. It’s the sign of committed relationships and on-on-one partnerships, whether personal or professional. Venus as ruler gives a love of love, of art, beauty and aesthetics. Libra enjoys elegance and luxury on one side, but the Scales of Justice also inspire a search for fairness and equality. Able to see both sides of a situation, Libra is the peaceful social warrior who can be objective, judges well, but still wants to look good doing it. If they don’t go along just to get along, or procrastinate, they often do.
SCORPIO: Feminine, Fixed Water Sign, ruled by Pluto
Possessed of incisive insights, deep feelers and secretive to boot, Scorpios are generally hard to know completely. There is a naturally private aspect to Scorpio because it penetrates to root causes and seeks out the depths of life. This sometimes manifests as a desire to control, influence or manipulate matters, giving Scorpio natives a difficult rep. They have mystique, emotional intensity, and an abundance of magnetic sexuality. Natural detectives, nothing gets by them and they’re often psychic or drawn to crisis or transformative experiences. Scorpios are intense and powerful. They’d say they’re worth it.
SAGITTARIUS: Masculine, Mutable Fire Sign, ruled by Jupiter
Going places is what this sign is about, whether it’s spiritually, mentally, emotionally or—especially—physically. The Jupiter rulership gives Sagittarius a restless nature and desire for far horizons. Travel is a passion for Sadge, as is the desire for Truth, which can manifest as intensive study of spirituality or seeking a graduate degree via higher education. The Great Outdoors is often especially revered. The Archer shoots high in search of righteousness, but also fun and frolic. A freedom-oriented, big-hearted natural seeker, routine is the final Fire Sign’s enemy, and philosophy and laughter its salvation.
CAPRICORN: Feminine, Cardinal Earth sign, ruled by Saturn
Somebody has to be the grown-up in life, and Saturn-ruled Capricorn is the designated authority. Oh-so-serious Capricorn natives often mature early. Responsibility comes naturally to them, as well as a love of tradition. Conservative by nature, Capricorn energy demands that something lasting be built. The willingness to do it, whether it be a business, family, or even government, constitutes the essence of this motivated Earth Sign. Capricorn asks: What endures? What is worth the effort? Hardship, loss and depression are sometimes unwanted companions, but the Sea Goat’s fortitude is strong.
AQUARIUS: Masculine, Fixed Air Sign, ruled by Uranus
Aquarius is about personal and collective freedom, an awareness of what is best for everyone. It’s a group energy, which often makes Aquarius natives a bit weird because they are not following the herd. They’re sorting out how to find him/herself and relate to the Big Picture. So they have the reputation for being individualistic, quirky, even shocking. Aquarius is spiritual but chaotic, intellectual, futuristic. Aquarians can be emotionally aloof, better in friendships than love. They’re hard to understand, but they have your good at heart. They’re on the barricades on your behalf already.
PISCES: Feminine, Mutable Water Sign, ruled by Neptune
Pisces is a kiss upon the lips, gentle, understanding and emotional. Pisceans “get” you; they’re so empathic they often wish they didn’t. They’re experts at merging into something greater…the cosmic ocean (Pisceans are often highly intuitive), or a relationship that’s not really worth it. A sense of self may be secondary to emotional commitment to an ideal. Pisceans are romantics at heart, fantasy is their forte. The creative Fish adapts to almost anything, possibly including negative habits. They are extraordinarily sensitive; it’s also their salvation. In a rough world, soft Pisces energy is the definition of compassion.
Astrology has different twelve sectors to the chart, each one a natural placement for a zodiac sign. There are 30 degrees to a sign and various systems of calculating where each house cusp actually begins in relation to each sign. But they all add up to 360 degrees, a complete circle and mathematical perfection.
The beginning of the 1st House is called THE ASCENDANT or RISING SIGN. This is determined by the time of birth and is indicative of what sign was rising, at that moment, over the eastern horizon as the Earth turned in space. It is normally positioned to the left side of a chart. From here the placements of the signs begin.
THE ASCENDANT (RISING SIGN)
The eastern angle of the chart speaks to our projected personality, the natural mask that we wear. It’s what people see first about us. We embody more of our Rising Sign as we get older and grow into our natural talents or interests. It’s thus unsurprising to find that a writer or speaker has Gemini rising, a sign associated with communication skills. Similarly, a person with a smoldering sexuality may well have Scorpio rising. The Ascendant is the way we project ourselves into the world and is a key to understanding “Who Am I?”
The natural home of Aries energy, the 1st House begins at the Ascendant. Symbolically, it’s our personal red carpet, how we look and the image we project. It rules the physical body and our general personality. Those with planets in the 1st House tend to be social magnets. One of the most important houses, this is where we make our first major impression.
The natural abode of Taurus, this is where we look for our values. As we like to keep whatever it is we value, this is also the house of money and material possessions. This house describes how best to earn our living, what our financial conditions are likely to be, and our natural talents. Self-esteem, tied into our values and gifts, is also represented here.
The natural placement for Gemini energy, the 3rd House is where we look for intelligence, logic, and communications, especially speaking and writing skills. It describes how and what we learn, our early life and schooling. Our phones and computers show up here plus cars, short trips and a quick-paced life. This is the neighborhood, and includes our siblings.
The northern, or bottommost angle of the chart represents our roots, the substance from which our current life is built. The sign on the angle describes our home life, most nurturing parent, the actual condition of our house. It’s our foundation, whether of character or the physical domicile. The Nadir is about beginnings and endings, the private life and where and how we might lead it. An indicator of how we deal emotionally with life, this is a gestation point for other parts of our character. It’s one of the places where we can see the actual spirit of a person represented.
The natural placement for sensitive Cancer, home, family and our private memories all belong here. This house is associated with the mother and our childhood. It’s our nesting impulse and the nest itself. Real estate, foundation issues are found here, including psychological and even karmic foundations. We come here for nurturance, physical security, and safety.
The natural throne of Leo, the 5th House is all about creativity and self-expression. A great joy jumps out here in the form of children or creative works. Here we find playfulness, gambling, love affairs, matters of the heart. Flamboyant styles and show biz entertainment burst out here. This is also the place of nobility, social prominence or rulership. It’s where we shine.
This is the house of health, work and our service to others. The natural home of hard-working Virgo, this is the abode of everyday life, of routines, employment, and how we keep things together. It describes how we order our life and what sort of work we do, and those we need to be available to help. This is the place of workouts, and also of our domestic pets.
The angle of the western horizon, found on the right side of the chart, takes us into the realm of partnership, whether personal or professional. It’s how we relate. This angle often indicates the qualities of someone we’ll end up with, sometimes even their Sun-sign. Equally important, it gives us a clue as to how and what we “project” upon the Other. This is why the 7th House is called the arena of both war and peace. The Descendant is the mirror of the Ascendant, beginning the second, more public part of the chart. It’s where we meet ourselves in the guise of another.
The natural home of Libra, this is our connection abode, where we relate to our partner. This is the place of one-on-one relationships, of cooperation and/or conflict. Marriage and diplomacy are found here, contracts and agreements, counseling and mutual satisfaction; plus our opponents and competition. It’s the place of sharing, where we seek harmony.
The natural home of Scorpio, 8th House energy is often about loss, breakdown and reconstruction. It is the place of physical death and psychological rebirth, passion, sex and intimacy, in-depth research. Here we find shared resources, investments, and legacies. It’s an intense place where we can rejuvenate ourselves, have occult experiences, and emotionally be tested.
The natural abode of Sagittarius is about expansion into unknown territory. Here we find the impulse for long-distance travel, higher education, the urge toward philosophy and religion. This is where we search for meaning. The foreign and unknown, the legal profession, publishing and teaching, are all given to this house. It can be a place of enlightenment.
The topmost, southern angle of the chart is important because it represents our highest elevation in life. The sign on this angle symbolizes the qualities or arena our reputation comes from. This angle represents our status in life, where we should shoot, how the world will generally see us. It represents our pinnacle, our life direction and possibly being in the public eye. It is also about how we deal with authorities, and the means by which we become our own authority. It can be the parental imprint upon us that makes us who we are today.
The natural placement for Capricorn, this is the place for serious accomplishments. Our status and reputation are shown here, along with parents (especially the father), bosses and other authorities. This is our public persona and life direction, our calling and real career. Government, business, social organizing are found here, plus our personal ambitions.
The natural home of Aquarius, this is essentially our community center. Our friendships, peer group and social circle are represented here, those we consider to be kindred spirits. Here we find teams and organizations that fill our lives, plus technology and social media that allow large-scale contact. Here we seek out a meaningful place among others.
The natural abode of Pisces, this is our retreat center, where we go for peace and quiet. It’s the realm of the subconscious mind and karmic residue. It’s the house of our secret self…of self-undoing and self-transcendence…where our spirit lives. Escapism lives here too, fantasy, imagination and creativity. Here also lie solitude, caregiving and being taken care of.
As Earth and the other planets in this Solar System dance in their exquisite patterns, they make energetic connections, some of which correlate with easeful times for those of us on Earth, and some stressful. These patterns can be seen in the birth chart and then—as they are continuous—in every moment of our lives. Here are the major energetic aspects and their meanings:
CONJUNCTION (0 TO 8 DEGREES ORB)
A conjunction occurs when, from our point of view, planets come together in the sky. Energy blends when they’re dancing cheek to cheek. A conjunction is a starting point, an initiating energy which begins a new cycle. The particular energy that is being activated varies in accordance with the planets involved. A rowdy, athletic Sun-Mars conjunction is much more active than a feed-me-grapes, receptive Moon-Venus conjunction.
SEMI-SEXTILE (30 DEGREES)
A minor aspect that nevertheless is sometimes energetically noticeable, this is, as the name implies, half a sextile (see below). A door of opportunity opens a crack. Self-growth and harmony make this aspect lucky if we are awake to its subtle signals.
SEMI-SQUARE (45 DEGREES)
Another minor aspect that is likely to prove distracting, this is like walking around for hours in a tight shoe. It’s irritating, and stopping to loosen the shoe might work, but this aspect draws attention to issues that need to aired out at the full square.
SEXTILE (60 DEGREES)
A sextile is a harmonious energy pattern that is like a door opening, allowing opportunities to come into our lives and make it better. It’s an indicator of something that requires effort, but that effort is likely to be rewarded. A 60-degree orb also blends planets in signs that have compatible elements (Air and Fire, Water and Earth), so it enhances the opportunities at hand. A sextile says, “Walk through the door.”
SQUARE (90 DEGREES)
A square is like a fistfight with an ornery neighbor. It’s often tense and there may be obscure internal reasons why things happen in stressful ways. But a square “moves energy,” it’s a pattern that says, “For harmony to be had, changes have to be made.” So while squares aren’t always fun, they are often very useful. They present challenges for the sake of our self-growth. The resulting friction often helps to resolve things.
TRINE (120 DEGREES)
A trine occurs when planets are in the same element but in different signs. It’s an easeful time when things can be expected to work out well. Everything seems to fall into place without much effort. It’s not very motivating, so laziness is a danger and opportunities can be missed. But a trine is like a cosmic reward for work well done, a harmonious energy pattern that allows us to relax a little and enjoy our life.
SESQUI-SQUARE (135 DEGREES)
Another minor aspect variation on the tough 90-degree square, here’s where the blisters appear and something has to be done about irritations. Halfway between the trine’s harmony and the quincunx’s needed adaptability, this energy says, “Just stop!”
QUINCUNX, OR, INCONJUNCT (150 DEGREES)
A quincunx is an awkward angle between planets. It’s halfway between an easeful trine and a conflictual opposition. As with the square, the planets are in different elements, so they have trouble understanding each other. Flexibility is a virtue here, as something is needed that may not exactly be wanted. The quincunx’s motto? Adapt, adjust, accommodate. Remember, you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes.
OPPOSITION (180 DEGREES)
An opposition is about energies coming into alignment from two different directions. It’s like a log in the middle of a road that requires mutual lifting—without cooperation, nothing is accomplished. This is the furthest point from the initial conjunction, representing a culmination. The conflict inherent in this angle is resolvable through awareness. It’s said that opposites attract. It’s true. It’s not easy—but it is worthwhile.