Astrology 101:3—The Planets

What you’re getting here is just the planets and what they represent in astrology, not what each of them does in each sign. That would be way too much for one posticle.

For convenience, astrologers generally refer to all of the relevant moving bodies as ‘planets’. The Sun and Moon are traditionally known as the ‘Lights’ or ‘Luminaries’ but if one is writing about all of them at once it gets a bit wearing to refer to everything separately.

If you know anything about astrology, please don’t be offended if I don’t include your favourite asteroid or similar. I’m dealing with the two Lights and eight planets; nothing smaller than a planet, dwarf or otherwise.

So, getting to the point, what do the planets do? Let’s look at them in order.

s The Sun. Your true personality, the real you. What you’re capable of being and becoming. How you act, especially when seriously out of your comfort zone. Also what you may do creatively or for recreation.

a The Moon. How you react and (sometimes) respond to your surroundings and events. Day to day feelings and moods. Sensitivity or lack thereof.

f Mercury. Thought processes, communication, speech, writing, business, short journeys, games rather than sports.

g Venus. Marriage; romantic, business and pretty much any one-to-one partnership, art, fashion, music, dance, theatre. Also food and sensual pleasures. Fairness.

h Mars. Decision making. Assertiveness, courage, contests, war and military organisations, sport rather than games. Competitiveness.

j Jupiter. Prosperity, growth, abundance, philosophy and religion, lawyers, justice, charity.

Saturn: Understanding, hard work, restrictions, the art of the possible, buildings, agriculture, planning, the Law.

The above are all visible to the naked eye and have been observed for thousands of years. The next three planets were discovered in the last couple of hundred years or so and can only be seen with a telescope. They move much more slowly and affect whole generations and hence are sometimes called ‘transpersonal’ planets.

F Uranus: sudden change, inspiration, earthquakes, crashes. Revelation and revolution.

G Neptune: Our highest ideals, dissolution of the old order, diseases, liquids e.g. oil, mental health and institutions, spirituality.

or J Pluto: Transformation and elimination. Only discovered in 1930 and as it takes about two hundred and fifty years to complete an orbit of the zodiac our knowledge may be regarded as a work in progress. When discovered, Pluto was in Gemini and as it’s only managed to get to Capricorn there’s still a lot of observation to be done.

That’s it for now.

Astrology 101:2 – The Zodiac

The zodiac is the backdrop of star constellations against which the Sun, Moon and planets move as seen from our viewpoint here on Earth. They are listed as follows: Aries (Ram); Taurus (Bull): Gemini (Twins); Cancer (Crab); Leo (Lion); Virgo (Virgin); Libra (Scales); Scorpio (Scorpion); Sagittarius (Centaur); Capricorn (Sea Goat); Aquarius (Water Bearer); Pisces (Fish). Each sign has a (notional) 30 degree piece of the sky which conveniently adds up to a full 360 degree circle. They are the constellations which lie on the plane of the ecliptic along which the Lights and planets move in their annual dance across the heavens.

Please note that there are twelve (12) signs. No more, no less, despite what sceptics like Dara O’Briain, Prof. Brian Cox or NASA might tell you. It’s been twelve signs since the system got started and it will remain that way.

Yes, astrologers know perfectly well that, because of the phenomenon of precession of the equinoxes caused by an endearing little wobble as the Earth rotates about its axis, the zodiacal constellations don’t line up like what they used to. This means that March 21st or so is when the Sun, by observation, moves into Pisces rather than Aries. But there’s a really good reason why that doesn’t matter.

It’s because the astrological signs don’t actually mean anything.

Just like the months on a calendar, the astrological ‘signs’ are convenient ways of marking the passage of the Sun around the Earth. For social and commercial purposes the world standard is the Gregorian calendar which is the one you have hanging on your wall. But there are other calendars in daily use everywhere in the world which have uses for religious observances, local feasts and the like. So Midsummer Day (for the northern hemisphere, anyway) next year falls on June 24th (Gregorian), 11th of Tamuz, 5778 (Jewish), Ding Si day, Ji Wei month, Wu Xu year (Chinese) or, astrologically, 3rd of Cancer. However you measure it, though, it’s still Midsummer Day.

When this astrology thing all started to get organised, it was observed that those born in the thirty-day period following the Spring Equinox tended to have the qualities associated with the local variation of ram. Those born in the following thirty-day period tended to have the qualities of a bull, and so on through the year. That pretty much followed the positions of the corresponding constellations in the zodiac and, given that very few people could read or write, it meant that astrologers could at least tie the days to a system which was illustrated in the sky, along with any necessary explanatory stories to get the point across.

Precession of the equinoxes means that the astrological markers (signs of the zodiac) no longer line up with the observed astronomical ingresses (Technical Term #4). That’s not a problem. In the same way that November is no longer the ninth month of the Gregorian calendar (from the latin novem, nine) but still retains its name, so Aries is still the first ‘month’ of the astrological ‘calendar’. It’s also still the point at which Ariens are born instead of Pisceans.

So let’s have a look at the attributes, for and against, each sign of the zodiac. The symbol next to each name is its ‘glyph’ (Technical Term #5), a sort of astrological shorthand.

x  Aries: Short attention span, great starters but poor finishers, enthusiastic, impulsive, brave but also reckless, selfish, thoughtless, impatient. Quick to anger but over just as quickly.

Taurus: Practical, patient, strong-willed, loves food, luxury and also other sensual pleasures, trustworthy. The downside of that, of course, is that they can be stubborn, greedy and possessive. And very, very lazy.

v   Gemini: Versatile, communicative, witty, lively, rational. Restless, changeable, flippant, inconsistent, superficial.

b  Cancer: Sensitive, sympathetic, imaginative, protective, nurturing, kind, cautious. On the other hand; self-pitying, touchy, unforgiving. A tough exterior can hide a weak character.

n  Leo: Generous, dramatic, enthusiastic, creative, broadminded. Also pompous, conceited, dogmatic, snobbish and possibly tyrannical.

m  Virgo: Analytical, tidy, modest, hard working. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Health conscious bordering on hypochondria, fussy, hypercritical, pedantic. There’s always a downside.

X  Libra: Harmonious, balanced, refined, fair, charming, diplomatic. indecisive, resentful, changeable, flirtatious, gullible.

C  Scorpio: Passionate, secretive, trustworthy, intense, determined. Jealous, scheming, secretive, suspicious. Don’t cross a Scorpio; you’ll be looking over your shoulder until they get their revenge.

V  Sagittarius: Joyful, freedom-loving, sincere, frank, philosophical. Careless, capricious, irresponsible, prone to exaggeration and with a tendency to open his mouth only in order to change feet.

B  Capricorn: Determined, reliable, cautious, disciplined, traditionalist. Mean, rigid, pessimistic, a wet blanket.

N  Aquarius: Independent, friendly, progressive, original, loyal. Eccentric, unpredictable, contrary and yet with fixed opinions.

M  Pisces: Compassionate, sympathetic, intuitive, kind, humble, emotional. Vague, disordered, weak-willed, indecisive.

That is by no means an exhaustive run-down of the twelve signs but it will do to be going on with.

Astrology 101:1

I think it might be a good time to do a series of posticles (posted articles, anyone?) giving some basic pointers to what goes into astrology. So, to use American terminology, welcome to Astrology 101.

To do astrology, the first thing you need is the chart. That’s the circular picture with a bunch of strange symbols, apparently random numbers and some lines connecting various of the strange symbols with one another. It may be called the birth chart, the native chart or the radical chart but it’s the starting point for astrological interpretation—and for budding astrologers.

I’m not going to go into how the chart is calculated. While there were computers which could do the job when I started, it was almost quicker to calculate the thing by hand anyway. Besides, given that the storage medium was the good ol’ floppy disk and computers were neither ubiquitous nor reliable, it was a Good Thing to be able to erect (Technical Term #1) a chart by hand. You just had to be good at sums.

So let’s look at it from the point of view of interpretation. Think of it as a cake with a number of ingredients, all of which are essential to the recipe and each of which has an effect on most, if not all of the others. The seasoned astrologer will be able to look at the chart as a whole and get a picture in his/her/its mind of the overall person, event or whatever entity is being studied and will then start muttering things like, ‘Oh, that’s interesting’ or ‘Hmm, don’t like that’ and if the Native (Technical Term #2) or person-for-whom-the-chart-is-being-read is within earshot, that’s when they start looking for the exit, generally getting nervous or possibly start thinking about making a will.

By the way, if an astrologer says something like, ‘What’s a nice little planet like you doing in a chart like this,’ leave immediately by the nearest exit and then start running. Fast.

So the starting point for this recipe is the ingredients. What you need are; twelve signs, two Lights (Technical Term #3, meaning the Sun and the Moon) and eight planets, twelve Houses, four angles and a minimum of five types of Aspects.

The beginner will look at each ingredient individually—planet in sign, planet in House, aspect from one planet to another—and build a picture from that. A more practiced and experienced astrologer learns to look at those things all at once and synthesise the various (and possibly conflicting) bits and pieces into one part of the whole picture that will indicate the personality of the Native when the process of interpretation is complete.

Right. That will do for now. Next posticle we’ll look at the zodiac in all its twinkly glory.

Triplicities And Quadruplicities

The astrological signs come in four flavours (Fire, Air, Water, Earth, also known as the Quadruplicities) and three characters (Cardinal, Fixed, Mutable aka the Triplicities). Okay, so what does that mean?

Let’s take the flavours first. Any given party is very likely to have a mix of the various signs so we’ll use that as an analogy. So, Fire signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) are generally outgoing, extrovert, generous, cheerful and possibly a bit loud. There’s a tendency towards tactlessness but they are usually fortunate enough to get themselves out of all but the most horrific of messes.

Air signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius) are chatterboxes, social butterflies (maybe not so much with Aquarians), intellectual and possibly untidy. They can give the feeling that one is the only person in a whole roomful of people, right up to the point where they move on to the next and one is left feeling ever-so-slightly bereft…

Water signs (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces) are the feelers of the zodiac. If you see someone tearing up at the mere suggestion of something sad—or happy, for that matter—chances are that there’s Water in that person’s chart and quite probably near the surface—Sun, Moon or Ascendant.

Earth signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn) are mainly practical types. They will quietly beaver away at whatever it is they do and get the job done. At our hypothetical party they will be the ones who take their empty glass back to the kitchen for a refill, rather than just parking it in a place convenient for getting knocked over (smashing optional) and will gather up what they can see and/or carry on the way. They tend to be a bit earnest (Virgo, I’m looking at you) and appear to be rather slow.

The characters (Quadruplicities) can be looked at by using an analogy of the four seasons. Cardinal signs kick things off, get them started, give the initial push; think March (Spring, Aries) June (Summer, Cancer) September (Autumn/Fall, Libra) and December (Winter, Capricorn). Fixed signs take that push and maintain whatever has been started; April, Taurus; July, Leo; October, Scorpio; January, Aquarius. Mutable signs are responsible for winding up the old impetus/season, making it all nice and tidy in preparation for the next one; May, Gemini; August, Virgo; November, Sagittarius; February, Pisces.