Learn how to get your precise horoscope, decipher astrologicalsymbols, and benefit from the phases of the moon with Astrologyfor Dummies, Second Edition. You'll learn how toconstruct your birth chart, interpret its component parts, and usethat information to gain insight into yourself and others. Witheasy-to-follow, hands-on guidance, you'll discover how to: * Identify the signs of the zodiac * Understand the Sun, the Moon, the planets, the rising sign, andthe 12 houses * Discover the rulers of the signs * Map your own horoscope (or a friend's) * Use astrology in daily life * Capture the heart of each sign of the zodiac, and more! Astrology For Dummies, Second Edition demystifiesastrological charts and uses plain English to show you how you cantake advantage of the wisdom of the stars. Whether you'relooking to assess relationships, examine your potential, or makesome basic decisions -- like, when to go on a first date-- Astrology For Dummies, Second Edition helps youdiscover how understanding your position in the cosmos illuminatesthe secret corners of the self, provides a key to understandingothers, and even offers a glimpse into the future.
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by Rae Orion
Astrology For Dummies®, 2nd Edition
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Copyright © 2007 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana
Published simultaneously in Canada
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Rae Orion has been casting horoscopes since the Ford Administration, when she became the court astrologer for a metaphysical bookstore on the West Coast and began to prognosticate for strangers. She has taught astrology to high school students, social service professionals, friends, and relatives, and has written monthly horoscope columns and articles about astrology (among other topics) for New Woman and other magazines. She lives in New York City.
For George, always
Two Capricorns deserve extravagant praise: my husband, George, and my editor, Chrissy Guthrie. Both are thoughtful, serious, organized, kind, and a lot more fun than is generally advertised for that sign. I also want to thank Tracy Boggier, who reintroduced me to the For Dummies way of life; Ethel Winslow, who is a fine astrologer as well as an editor; and others at Wiley, including Jessica Smith, David Lutton, the people in Composition Services, and Christy Beck, whose behind-the-scenes presence was always a comfort. Without Reid Boates, this book would not exist.
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About This Book
Conventions Used in This Book
What You’re Not to Read
How This Book Is Organized
Icons Used in This Book
Where to Go from Here
Part I : Mapping Your Place in the Cosmos
Chapter 1: An Astrological Overview: The Horoscope in Brief
Looking at the Starry Sky
Identifying the Signs of the Zodiac
Understanding the Signs
Considering the Sun, the Moon, and the Planets
Who Rules? Discovering the Rulers of the Signs
Assessing the Ascendant and the Houses
Chapter 2: Getting Your Precise Horoscope: The Old Way versus the Easy Way
Gathering the Information You Need
What It Takes to Cast Your Chart the Old-Fashioned Way
Getting Your Horoscope in a Nanosecond
Investing in DIY Software
Chapter 3: Estimating Your Horoscope Using the Tables in This Book
Using the Tables in This Book to Identify Your Planets
Figuring Out Your Ascendant or Rising Sign
Determining Your Houses
Creating a Horoscope
Part II : Here Comes the Sun
Chapter 4: Fire Signs: Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius
Aries the Ram: March 20–April 18
Leo the Lion: July 23–August 22
Sagittarius the Archer: November 22– December 21
Chapter 5: Earth Signs: Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn
Taurus the Bull: April 19–May 20
Virgo the Virgin: August 23– September 22
Capricorn the Goat: December 22– January 19
Chapter 6: Air Signs: Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius
Gemini the Twins: May 21–June 20
Libra the Scales: September 23– October 22
Aquarius the Water Bearer: January 20–February 18
Chapter 7: Water Signs: Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces
Cancer the Crab: June 21–July 22
Scorpio the Scorpion: October 23– November 21
Pisces the Fish: February 19–March 19
Part III : Everything Else in the Cosmic Cookbook
Chapter 8: Moon Signs: The Lunacy Factor
The Moon in the Signs
The Nodes of the Moon
The Nodes in the Signs
Chapter 9: The Personal Planets
Locating Your Planets
Mercury: Communicating with Style
Venus: Love Conquers All
Mars: Road Warrior
Jupiter: More Is Better
Saturn: Lord of the Rings
Chapter 10: The Outer Planets (Plus One Amazing Asteroid)
Uranus: The Rebel
Neptune: The Dreamer
Pluto: The Power of Transformation
Chiron: The Wounded Healer
Chapter 11: What You See versus What You Get: The Rising Sign (And More)
Identifying Your Ascendant
What Your Ascendant Says about You
Finding and Understanding Your Descendant
Looking Into Your Midheaven and I.C.
Chapter 12: The Sun, the Moon, and the Planets in the Houses
Taking the House Tour
The Sun in the Houses
The Moon in the Houses
The Nodes of the Moon in the Houses
Mercury in the Houses
Venus in the Houses
Mars in the Houses
Jupiter in the Houses
Saturn in the Houses
Uranus in the Houses
Neptune in the Houses
Pluto in the Houses
Interpreting Empty Houses
Chapter 13: Amazing Aspects: The Secrets of Cosmic Geometry
Identifying the Major Aspects
Figuring Out Your Aspects
A Note about Minor Aspects
Interpreting the Aspects
Chapter 14: A Guide to Interpreting Your Birth Chart
Step One: Finding Overall Patterns
Step Two: Five Main Components of a Birth Chart
Step Three: Looking for Aspect Patterns
Step Four: Putting the Puzzle Together
Part IV : Using Astrology Right Now
Chapter 15: The Sun Sign Combinations
Aries in Love
Taurus in Love
Gemini in Love
Cancer in Love
Leo in Love
Virgo in Love
Libra in Love
Scorpio in Love
Sagittarius in Love
Capricorn in Love
Aquarius in Love
Pisces in Love
Finding Other Planetary Ties
Chapter 16: The Times of Our Lives: Transits
Coping with Saturn
Warning: The Astrologer’s Curse
Chapter 17: The Lunar Advantage: Using Astrology in Daily Life
Timing Your Actions by the Light of the Moon
Using the Moon in the Signs
Tracking the Moon in the Houses
Making the Most of Momentous Lunar Influences
Avoiding the Void
Chapter 18: Retrograde Hell? The Truth Revealed
Successfully Handling Retrograde Mercury
Looking Out for Retrograde Venus
Watching Out for Retrograde Mars
The Other Planets
Part V : The Part of Tens
Chapter 19: Ten Talents You Can Spot in a Chart
Beauty (Or the Power of Attraction)
Becoming an Astrologer
Chapter 20: Ten (Plus One) Ways to Use Astrology in Your Life: The Art of Timing
Going on a First Date
Opening a Business
Scheduling a Meeting
Throwing a Party
Purchasing a Computer
Buying a House
Starting a Diet or an Exercise Program
Writing a Novel or Screenplay
Appendix: Planetary Tables
: Further Reading
Astrology can change your life. It did mine. Astrology illuminates the secret corners of the self, provides a key to understanding others, contributes a useful method for scrutinizing relationships, and even offers a glimpse into the future. Beyond that, as with all great areas of knowledge, astrology has the power to alter perception. Once you know something about it, you never see the world in the same way again.
Using a vocabulary that’s both objective and poetic, astrology enlarges your curiosity (because after you absorb its principles, everyone you meet, no matter how dull the person or how fleeting the encounter, becomes a mystery waiting to be solved); it expands your insight into behavior and motivation; and most of all, it increases your compassion. Some people think that astrology divides all human beings into 12 groups. How wrong they are! Astrology teaches that all human beings are subject to universal needs and desires — and that every individual is entirely and splendidly unique.
Astrology has many forms. In this book, I focus on natal astrology, the interpretation of a birth chart to gain insight into yourself and others. Using real life examples, I show you how to construct your birth chart (or how to get it on the Internet), how to interpret its component parts, and how to use that information to gain insight into yourself and others.
I consider astrology a tool — an objective tool — for understanding self, assessing relationships, examining your potential, and even making some basic decisions. In this book, I show you how to use that tool.
One of the most charming aspects of astrology, in my opinion, is that virtually all birth charts, calendars, and books on the subject are strewn with tiny, mysterious-looking symbols. Until you know those symbols by heart, their presence can be distracting and confusing. That’s why I usually spell out the names of the signs, planets, and aspects. With actual birth charts, however, words are insufficient. I present those horoscopes just the way a professional astrologer would — covered with symbols.
Memorizing those symbols is incredibly useful. But you don’t have to do it. Instead, you can turn to the Cheat Sheet at the beginning of this book, where you can find a neat list of every symbol you need to know. The Cheat Sheet enables you to translate the symbols back into English. That way, when you’re looking at a birth chart and you see something like this:
you’ll know that it means that the Moon ( ) is in Gemini ( ) at 26 degrees 23 minutes.
In this book, whenever I refer to a planetary position such as the one in the preceding example, I describe it as 26°23' Gemini. I usually don’t spell out the words degree (°) and minute ('). I assume that you know them. On birth charts, I go further and omit those two tiny symbols. Instead, the charts in this book announce planetary positions by using boldface type for the degrees and regular type for the minutes, as follows: 26 23.
I’d like you to read every word in this book, but you don’t have to. You can safely ignore the paragraphs marked with the Technical Stuff icon, and you can even skip the sidebars (the gray-shaded boxes that are scattered throughout the book). Although reading these sections will enhance your understanding, you’ll get along fine without them.
Despite the title of this book, I assume that you’re no fool. I assume that you’re intrigued by the art of astrology because you’re seeking fresh ways of understanding. I also assume that, whether you’re a newcomer or a longtime follower, you’re primarily interested in your own horoscope.
I assume that you have access to a computer and can get on the Web, where you can easily obtain your birth chart. (You can also cobble one together yourself, using only the material in this book.) That horoscope combined with this book enables you to explore astrology in a multitude of ways.
My final assumption about you is simply that you have some sense; that you expect insight from astrology, not winning lottery numbers; that you understand that astrology isn’t about fate or even about luck. It’s about possibility, propensity, and potential. An old maxim, taught to every generation of astrologers, says it all: The stars impel, they do not compel.
Astrology For Dummies, 2nd Edition, follows a logical sequence. It starts with an overview, offers various methods for getting your chart, and then explores the Sun signs and the other components of the chart in detail. After that, it expands into relationships, leaps into ways of using astrology on a daily basis, and concludes with a section on talents and timing.
These three chapters cover the basics. Chapter 1 briefly discusses the Sun, the Moon, the planets, the rising sign, and the 12 houses. Chapter 2 tells you how to get your chart via the Internet or computer software. And Chapter 3 tells you how to construct a rough copy of your chart using the tables in this book. After that, you’re ready to dive into the rest of the book.
Astrology is an interpretative art that can lead in many directions. It starts here with four chapters about the Sun signs organized according to element. Chapter 4 surveys the fire signs (Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius); Chapter 5 explores the earth signs (Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn); Chapter 6 talks about the air signs (Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius); and Chapter 7 considers the water signs (Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces).
Sun Sign astrology, albeit fascinating, leaves many questions unanswered. The chapters in this part help fill in those blanks. Chapter 8 illuminates the Moon and the Nodes of the Moon in all 12 signs. Chapters 9 and 10 discuss Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto — plus the asteroid Chiron, which was discovered in 1977 and is now routinely included in horoscopes by many astrologers. Chapter 11 talks about the Ascendant, and Chapter 12 describes the influence of the planets in each of the houses. Finally, Chapter 13 looks at the way the planets interact by analyzing the aspects, or geometrical relationships, that link them together.
After you’ve looked up your planetary placements, you may find yourself suffering from information overload. Never fear — Chapter 14 shows you how to winnow that data down to its most essential components by looking for patterns that characterize your chart as a whole.
Gaining insight into your psyche is a worthy enterprise, but most people interested in astrology have other topics on their minds: like relationships, which I discuss in Chapter 15. Included in that chapter is an assessment of all 78 Sun sign combinations — plus tips on how to capture the heart of each sign of the zodiac.
In Chapters 16, 17, and 18, I tell you how to squeeze the maximum benefit out of astrology. Chapter 16 explains how the current positions of Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto affect you — and what you can look forward to in the future.
Chapter 17, the most hands-on chapter in the book, focuses on only one planet (and I’m using that word loosely): the Moon. Its monthly swing through all of its phases and all 12 signs brings days when the cosmos is with you — and days when it’s decidedly not. In this chapter, I tell you how the position of the Moon can help you decide when to take the initiative, when to hang back, when to start projects, when to wait, and more.
Chapter 18 addresses a phenomenon that never fails to annoy people: retrograde Mercury, which is famous for generating bouts of delay and aggravation. I’m generally quite sanguine about this passing influence. After all, it happens three times a year. What’s the big deal? Or so I used to think. Recently, though, retrograde Mercury put me on the wrong train twice in a week, swallowed up a crucial e-mail, and lobotomized my iPod. In this chapter, I tell you how to cope better than I did.
After you understand the Sun, the Moon, and the planets, you have the basics down. In this part, I apply that information in two ways. In Chapter 19, I reveal the planetary components of ten different talents. And in Chapter 20, which addresses the fine art of astrological timing, I tell you when to throw a party, when to launch a business, when to buy a computer, even when to get married — by the stars.
You’ll also find the Appendix, which lists the positions of the Sun, the Moon, and the planets, including Chiron. This is the section of the book to turn to when doing a birth chart. It tells you where the planets were (and will be) between 1930 and 2012.
Four icons sprinkled throughout this book serve as road signs. Here’s what the icons mean:
In an ideal world, every planetary placement, aspect, and transit discussed in this book would be accompanied by an example from the life of a flesh-and-blood human being. In the real world, book space is limited, so I’m able to use only a few such examples. This icon highlights those examples. In many cases, real-life examples feature movie stars, politicians, and other public figures. Occasionally, I focus on people I know personally. In those instances, the names are changed. The astrology remains the same.
Certain facts and principles are essential. I discuss most of them in the early chapters. But when you need to recall a fact in order to understand another aspect of a birth chart, I try to remind you, gently, using this icon.
It’s impossible to talk about astrology without coming smack up against astronomy and mathematics. Whenever I give a nuts-and-bolts scientific explanation of an astrological phenomenon, I warn you upfront with this icon. Want to skip the explanation? Go ahead. Most of the time, you can ignore it and still be on track.
A paragraph marked with this icon may suggest an easier way of doing something. It may point you to a book or a Web site that covers material similar to that being discussed in the text, it may suggest a way to offset a problem that arises with a particular configuration in a chart, or it may tell you how to, say, seduce a Capricorn. Never let it be said that astrology isn’t useful.
If you’re a novice, you may as well know the truth: Astrology is a complicated system. The only way to describe it is to begin at the beginning, which is what I do. But I’ve seen the way people leaf through astrology books, and I have written it with the understanding that you may open it anywhere.
So consider this book a reference. You don’t need to read the chapters in any particular order. You don’t even have to remember much from one chapter to the next because this book is filled with cross-references and reminders. If you know a little bit about the subject, you can jump in anywhere.
Nonetheless, you may want to start at the beginning and read a chapter or two before you plunge into the rest of book. If you know your sign but nothing else, turn to Chapter 2, which tells you how to get an accurate horoscope. If you already have a copy of that essential document, you’re ready to begin. I invite you to take a random walk through the book.
I find the knowledge I’ve gained from astrology to be consistently fascinating and helpful. It’s my hope that you, too, will rejoice in — and benefit from — the wisdom of the stars.
In this part . . .
“K now thyself,” the Delphic Oracle said. It’s still good advice. But suggestions like that are never easy to implement . . . unless you know astrology. An ancient and evolving system, astrology illuminates the secret corners of the psyche and points the way to self-knowledge. Astrology enables you to recognize your strengths, to acknowledge your weaknesses, to accept your needs, and to understand the otherwise incomprehensible behavior of the people you know. But first, you need a copy of your chart. This part tells you how to get one.
Picturing the solar system
Rambling through the zodiac
Classifying the signs by polarity, modality, and element
Contemplating the Sun, the Moon, and the planets
Introducing the rulers of each sign
Discovering the Ascendant
Wandering through the houses
Legend has it that Sir Isaac Newton, widely considered the greatest genius of all time, may have explored astrology. Newton had a complex, curious mind. In addition to inventing calculus and discovering the universal law of gravity, he was interested in alchemy (the quest to turn ordinary metals into gold), the Bible, and astrology. When his friend Edmund Halley (after whom the comet is named) made a disparaging remark about it, Newton, a conservative Capricorn, shot right back, “Sir, I have studied the subject. You have not.” Or so the story goes.
Like every other astrologer, I like to think that story might be true. After all, astrology has faded in and out of fashion, but it has never lacked followers. Catherine de Medici had Nostradamus as her astrologer, Queen Elizabeth I consulted John Dee, and other astrologers advised Napoleon, George Washington, J. P. Morgan, and Ronald Reagan. Yet in all that time, no one has provided a satisfying explanation as to why astrology works. Over the centuries, proponents of the ancient art have suggested that gravity must be the motor of astrology . . . or electromagnetism . . . or the metaphysical “law of correspondences.” Carl G. Jung summarized that view when he wrote, “We are born at a given moment, in a given place, and like vintage years of wine, we have the qualities of the year and of the season in which we are born.”
I don’t know why astrology works, any more than Sir Isaac did. But I can assure you that it does work. The pattern that the planets made at the moment of your birth — that is, your birth chart or horoscope — describes your tendencies, abilities, challenges, and potential. It doesn’t predict your fate, though it does make some fates more easily achievable than others. The exact shape of your destiny, I believe, is up to you.
In this chapter, I delve into the astronomy behind astrology, the signs of the zodiac, and the components of the birth chart.
Picture, if you will, our solar system. In the middle is the Sun. Spinning around it are the planets and asteroids, whose orbits surround the Sun roughly the way the grooves on a record album encircle the label in the center.
That idea, drilled into us in childhood, would have astonished ancient stargazers. They never doubted that the Sun, Moon, and planets revolved around the Earth. And although we know better, thinking so didn’t make them stupid. The Sun really does look as if it revolves around the Earth. It seems to rise in the east and set in the west. And it always stays within the confines of a ribbon of space that encircles the Earth like a giant hoop. That strip of sky is called the ecliptic.
Following are the three most important facts about the ecliptic:
The ecliptic represents the apparent path of the Sun around the Earth — apparent because, in fact, the Sun doesn’t spin around the Earth at all. It just looks that way.
Like a circle, the ecliptic is divided into 360 degrees — and each degree is, in turn, divided into 60 minutes. The first 30 degrees of the ecliptic are Aries, the next 30 degrees are Taurus, and so on.
The stars that are scattered like dust along the entire length of the ecliptic form the constellations of the zodiac.
Here comes the confusing part: The signs of the zodiac and the constellations that share their names aren’t the same. The signs are divisions of the ecliptic, each exactly one-twelfth of the total length — 30 degrees. The constellations have nothing to do with the signs. I explain this sorry state of affairs in the sidebar “The signs, the constellations, and the precession of the equinoxes.”
Thousands of years ago, when the Babylonians were establishing the principles of astrology, the constellations and the signs of the zodiac were in alignment. On the vernal equinox (the first day of spring), the Sun was “in” the constellation Aries: That is, if you could see the Sun and the stars simultaneously, you’d see the Sun surrounded by the stars of the Ram. In those happy days, the signs and the constellations coincided.
Alas, this is no longer the case. On the vernal equinox today, the Sun shows up amidst the (dim) stars of Pisces the Fish — a very different kettle indeed.
The reason for this shift is that the Earth wobbles on its axis, which traces a circle in space like the spindle of a spinning top. As the axis shifts, the constellations seem to slip backwards. The amount of slippage over a human lifetime is minuscule, but over generations it adds up. As a result, every equinox takes place a little earlier in the zodiac than the one before. This process is called the precession of the equinoxes. It explains why the vernal equinox, which used to occur in the constellation Aries, now takes place in Pisces.
When the equinox moves back even further, to the constellation of the Water Bearer, the Age of Aquarius will officially begin. Astrologers differ about when that will be. Some are convinced that it’s happening now. Others believe that it’s decades — or centuries — away. Eventually, the cycle will begin again. Around the year 23800, the vernal equinox will return to Aries, and astrologers will be able to skip this entire explanation. Meanwhile, constellations of the zodiac and the signs of the zodiac aren’t the same.
Skeptics who attack astrology — and for some reason, these wary souls can be amazingly hostile — often point to the changing position of the constellations and the precession of the equinoxes as proof that astrology is bogus. The truth is that astrologers are well aware of this phenomenon. They consider the constellations as signposts and little more. What matters is the division of the ecliptic. The stars, glorious though they are, have nothing to do with your sign.
The sign that the Sun occupied at the moment of your birth is the most basic astrological fact about you. It defines your ego, motivations, needs, and approach to life. But the Sun isn’t the only planet that affects you. (For astrological purposes, both luminaries — the Sun and the Moon — are called planets. Do yourself a favor and don’t use this terminology when talking to astronomers.) Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Chiron, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, not to mention the Moon, represent distinct types of energy that express themselves in the style of the sign they’re in.
Nevertheless, astrologically speaking, your Sun sign is the most essential fact about you. To determine your sign, use Table 1-1. Keep in mind that the dates vary from year to year. After all, although a circle has 360 degrees, and each sign has precisely 30 degrees, it’s an inconvenient fact that a year has 365 days — not counting leap years. As a result, the signs don’t divide into the days as neatly as you would want. If you were born on the first or final day of a sign, you may want to check your birth sign by using the tables in the Appendix, venturing onto the Internet, or consulting an astrologer.
Like any truly satisfying system, astrology classifies and interprets its basic building blocks in a number of ways. Just for starters, each sign is defined by a polarity (positive or negative reaction pattern), a quality or modality (form of expression), and an element (describing basic temperament).
You can figure out the polarity of each sign by dividing the zodiac in half. Beginning with Aries, six positive or masculine signs alternate with six negative or feminine signs. The sexist language, I regret to say, is traditional. Many astrologers use the terms yin and yang instead. Call them what you will, the meanings are as follows:
Positive (yang) signs are more extroverted, objective, and assertive.
Negative (yin) signs are more introverted, subjective, and receptive.
The zodiac can also be divided into pairs of opposing signs. The opposite signs are: Aries and Libra; Taurus and Scorpio; Gemini and Sagittarius; Cancer and Capricorn; Leo and Aquarius; and Virgo and Pisces.
The three modalities describe different forms of expression, as follows:
Cardinal signs are enterprising. They initiate change and make things happen. The cardinal signs are Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn.
Fixed signs consolidate and preserve change. They’re focused and determined. The fixed signs are Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius.
Mutable signs are flexible and versatile. They adapt and adjust. The mutable signs are Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces.
Within the cycle of the zodiac, the three modalities occur in sequence. Cardinal energy initiates change, fixed energy digs its heels in and maintains the status quo, and mutable energy adapts to shifting circumstances.
Describing the temperament of each sign of the zodiac by assigning it to one of the four ancient elements is probably the most famous method of classification. The four elements are fire, earth, air, and water:
Fire brings vitality, excitement, and intensity. The fire signs are Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius.
Earth gives stability, common sense, and the ability to get things done. The earth signs are Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn.
Air enlivens the intellect and enhances sociability. The air signs are Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius.
Water strengthens the emotions and the intuition. The water signs are Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces.
Once you know the order of the signs, it’s easy to assign them to their correct polarity, modality, and element because those classifications always occur in sequence. (You can clearly see that sequence in Table 1-2.) Those classifications convey a great deal of information. If all you know is the polarity, modality, and element of each sign, you know a lot.
For example, take Cancer the Crab. It’s the sign of negative cardinal water. This tells you that Crabs tend to be internal and receptive (negative), with a heavy dose of initiative (cardinal), and strong emotional awareness (water).
Or consider Leo, which lives next door to Cancer but boasts a very different personality (as is always the case with adjacent signs). Leo is the sign of positive fixed fire. This means that its natives tend to be outgoing (positive), determined (fixed), and full of flash (fire).
The polarity, modality, and element provide a rudimentary sense of what each sign is about. For a detailed description of the signs, turn to Part II.
The zodiac arcs across the cosmos, huge and impossibly remote. Its symbolic equivalent, small and incredibly close, is the human body. Two thousand years ago, a Roman astrologer named Manilius correlated each sign of the zodiac to a part of the body in a sequence that starts at the head with Aries and runs down to the feet, which belong to Pisces. Medieval art, both European and Islamic, includes many fine renderings of the so-called Zodiac Man, which also appears in ancient medical texts. Indeed, medicine as it was once practiced relied on astrology not only for its understanding of disease but also for its cure.
I have my doubts about medical astrology (though I have to say, I have seen cases in which it’s weirdly, even disturbingly, accurate). However, I love this diagram because it reminds me that the spectrum of experience represented by the signs of the zodiac is universal and lives in everyone.
The Sun, the Moon, and the planets play individual parts in your horoscope. Their meanings are as follows:
The Sun represents your essential self, will, individuality, vitality, and desire for power. More than any other planet, it represents who you are. It also symbolizes men in general.
The Moon represents your emotions, subconscious, instincts, habits, and memory. It also represents women in general.
Mercury symbolizes your style of communication, your reasoning ability, and the way you think.
Venus represents those parts of your life that are concerned with love, attraction, beauty, possessions, and the arts.
Mars is the planet of desire and aggression. It represents your physical energy, combativeness, enterprise, and courage.
Jupiter is the planet of expansion and good fortune. It represents growth, prosperity, abundance, wisdom, generosity, and the higher mind. Jupiter’s position in a horoscope tells you where you’re lucky.
Saturn represents limitation, restriction, caution, organization, endurance, and discipline. It tells you where you have to face your fears — and also where you’re ambitious.
Chiron, a dwarf planet discovered in 1977, represents past hurt and future healing. Astrologers, not all of whom use Chiron, often associate it with holistic medicine.
Uranus represents originality, independence, rebelliousness, inventiveness, insight, and everything unexpected.
Neptune represents spirituality, dreams, psychic ability, intuition, disintegration, compassion, self-sacrifice, deception, and illusion.
Pluto represents elimination, destruction, regeneration, renewal, and transformation.
One way to simplify all this is to assign a single word — or, as astrologers prefer to say, keyword — to each planet. These keywords, which summarize each planet’s meaning, appear in Table 1-3.
In an ideal world, each planet would work well in each sign. But in fact, some placements are better than others. The sign in which a planet seems to function most effectively is the sign that it is said to rule. Two thousand years ago, when astrologers only had to worry about the Sun, the Moon, and five planets, they assigned the rulerships this way:
The Sun ruled Leo.
The Moon ruled Cancer.
Mercury ruled Gemini and Virgo.
Venus ruled Taurus and Libra.
Mars ruled Aries and Scorpio.
Jupiter ruled Pisces and Sagittarius.
Saturn ruled Aquarius and Capricorn.
After Uranus was discovered in 1781, followed by Neptune in 1846 and Pluto in 1930, astrologers modified the system. Today, the most commonly accepted planetary rulers are as follows:
The Sun rules Leo.
The Moon rules Cancer.
Mercury rules Gemini and Virgo.
Venus rules Taurus and Libra.
Mars rules Aries.
Jupiter rules Sagittarius.
Saturn rules Capricorn.
Uranus rules Aquarius.
Neptune rules Pisces.
Pluto rules Scorpio.
In recent years, astronomers have discovered legions of asteroids, moons, and other celestial bodies in our solar system. One of them is Chiron,which was discovered in 1977. Some astrologers believe that Chiron is the ruler of Virgo. Others associate it with Sagittarius. Many don’t bother with it at all, and it has yet to be assigned the rulership of a sign.
The planets aren’t the only essential components of your chart. The Ascendant or rising sign — the sign that was climbing over the eastern horizon at the moment of your birth — is equally important. It refers to your mask or persona — the face that you show the world. It also marks the start of the 12 houses.
Have you ever had a friend who was Miss Congeniality — until you got to know her? Did you ever encounter anyone who seemed standoffish and cold at first but warmed up later on? Do you know anyone whose devil-may-care, lighthearted attitude masks a calculating, manipulative mind? And have you ever wondered how you strike other people, especially when they don’t know you well? Your horoscope provides the answer. While your Sun sign may not be apparent to people, they definitely notice your Ascendant. It’s your image, your facade, your surface personality. Whether it clashes or harmonizes with your Sun sign, it describes the way people see you and the impression that you make. Indeed, some astrologers consider the ruler of the Ascendant — that is, the planet that rules the rising sign — to be the overall ruler of your chart.
No matter what your Sun sign might be, any one of the 12 signs might have been on the eastern horizon when you were born. If you were born around dawn, when the Sun was peeking over the horizon, you already know your rising sign: It’s the same as your Sun sign. If you were born at any other time of day, your rising sign and Sun sign differ.
For those people whose Sun signs and rising signs are identical, the surface and the substance are the same. For everyone else, what you see isn’t necessarily what you get.
Consider Whoopi Goldberg: She has Aquarius rising, so she appears progressive, sociable, and eccentric — a personality with a lively mind and a detached, observant approach to life. In fact, her Sun is in Scorpio, so beneath her brilliant Aquarian surface, she’s intensely emotional, passionate, and secretive — not detached at all.
To determine your rising sign, you need to know the time of your birth. When you have that, turn to Chapter 3, which gives you a rough estimate of your rising sign. Then go to Chapter 11 for an interpretation.
Besides shaping your personality, the Ascendant serves another function: It opens the door to the houses. For more about that subject, read on.
It makes no difference whether you’re a fun-loving Leo or a workaholic Capricorn, you still have to deal with relationships, money, health, career, and so on. Those areas come under the authority of the houses, which divide the sky into 12 parts, beginning with the Ascendant, which marks the start of the first house. The meanings of the houses are summarized in Table 1-4.
Just as every birth chart includes all the planets, every horoscope has all 12 houses. The sign on the cusp, or beginning of the house, describes your approach to it. For instance, if the sign of the bull is on the cusp of your house of work, your attitude toward your job is Taurean, making you dependable, productive, and a bit of a plodder, regardless of whether that house is crammed full of planets or empty.
The word cusp is used in two ways in astrology. When people say they were born “on the cusp,” they mean that their birthday falls at the end of one sign and the beginning of another. They usually think that they have qualities belonging to both signs. (I discuss this issue in Chapter 3.) When astrologers refer to the cusp of a house, they mean the house’s starting point.
Assembling your birth information
Creating your chart with piles of paper, tables, and dusty old books
Surfing the Internet to get your chart
Probing your psyche and glimpsing the future with astrological software
What could be more fabulously arcane than an astrological chart? Well, lots of things: Alchemical sigils, kabalistic diagrams, magic spells — you name it. But this book isn’t about them. It’s about astrology, which only seems strange. That’s because an astrological chart, with all its mysterious-looking symbols, has nothing mystical about it. It’s a representation of the real world, and it isn’t peculiar at all. An astrological chart is a picture, in streamlined form, of the solar system at the time of your birth. It’s that simple.
To visualize the cosmos as it was then, imagine standing on the Earth at the precise moment of your birth. Imagine, too, that you’re facing south and looking at a gigantic clock face that has been superimposed on the sky. To your left, in the nine o’clock position, is the eastern horizon. That’s your Ascendant. If you were born around dawn, that’s also where your Sun is. The twelve o’clock position is high in the sky in front of you. That’s where your Sun is if you were a lunchtime delivery. To your right, in the three o’clock position, is the western horizon. If you were born around dusk, your Sun is there. And if you snuck into this world around midnight, when the Sun was illuminating the other side of the planet, your Sun is in the six o’clock spot.
If you know the phase of the Moon at your birth, you can locate it in a similar way. Were you born under a new moon? Then your Moon and Sun are in roughly the same place. Born under a full moon? Then the Sun and Moon are opposite each other — 180° apart. If one is rising, the other is setting.
The point is this: The horoscope is neither a metaphysical construct nor a mystical symbol nor a psychological portrait. It’s a map. Your horoscope shows the position of the Sun, Moon, and planets at the moment of your birth. The astrologer’s task is to look at that map and figure out its meaning. But first you have to get your hands on the map. In this chapter, I tell you how to do just that.
If you’re like most people, you won’t have any trouble finding your birth information. Here’s what you need:
Your month, day, and year of birth
The place of your birth
Your exact birth time — or as close to it as you can get
Without an accurate birth time, you can never know what your Ascendant is (see Chapter 11 for more about Ascendants). You won’t have trustworthy house placements for your planets. You may not even know your Moon sign because it changes signs every two or three days. Without an accurate birth time, interpreting your chart correctly will be challenging. And predicting the future will be close to impossible.
Fortunately, finding the exact time is usually easy. But don’t be surprised if your mother’s memory of what must surely have been the highlight of her entire life turns out to be spotty. Since I haven’t done a survey, I have no statistics to bandy about, but I will say this: It’s shocking how many parents can’t remember when their children were born. They don’t know if it was 2:05 or 5:02. One mother even confessed to me that she wasn’t sure who was born at 10:06 a.m.: her daughter or herself. That’s why I recommend that you corroborate your birth time through the official record — your birth certificate.
To get your birth certificate online, check out the National Center for Health Statistics at www.cdc.gov/nchs and click on the link that says “Help obtaining birth, death, marriage, or divorce certificates.”
What if no one thought to look at a clock when you were born? First, keep in mind that an approximate time is better than nothing — much better. If all you know is that you came into this world before breakfast or during the Late Show with David Letterman, that’s useful information, even if it’s not exact.
If you aren’t sure of your birth time, you might consider asking a professional astrologer to rectify your chart. Rectification is a complex process. It involves working backwards from major events in your life (such as marriage, divorce, or the death of a parent) to make an educated guess about your probable birth time. Some astrology software includes rectification modules. Even so, it’s wise to proceed with caution: Unless the astrologer has considerable experience, rectification isn’t a sure bet.
A more significant problem arises when you have no idea what time you were born. I have a beloved friend, one of many children, who never knew her birth time. And then one day, things got rapidly worse. During an astonishing conversation with an older sister, she discovered that no one in her family could vouch with 100 percent certainty for the day of her birth — or even the month. Suddenly she wasn’t sure whether she was a Libra (no way) or a Scorpio (yes). This rare situation is an astrologer’s worst-case scenario.
More typically, people know the day, month, and year of their birth — but not the time. That’s not a tragedy. Even without the time, you can uncover a wealth of information about yourself. However, when you go online to get your horoscope — or even when you do it yourself — you have to adjust for the missing information.
In the absence of anything resembling an accurate birth time, I recommend that you do what professional astrologers do: Pretend that you were born either at noon or at dawn (my preference) and proceed accordingly. (In Chapter 3, I tell you more about what to do if your birth time is lost in space.)
In the past, before the computer infiltrated every corner of human existence, figuring out the positions of the planets was a challenge. It required patience, hours of free time, a fearless approach to mathematics, and an eagerness to grapple with the kinds of boring details that drive most people nuts.
For instance, you had to look up the longitude and latitude of your birth place, and you had to correct for its distance from the standard time meridian for that location. You had to distinguish between local time and Greenwich mean time, not to mention standard time, daylight saving time, and war time. Then you had to calculate the movement of the planets using, among other tools, a table of proportional logarithms. Most people didn’t want to bother.
I always felt differently. I liked staying up late surrounded by numerical tables, volumes of astrological data, pads of yellow paper, and the special horoscope blanks I bought at a metaphysical bookstore. As I calculated each planetary position and house cusp, drew the symbols of the signs and planets onto the chart, and counted up how many planets were in fire signs, in earth signs, and so on, the chart — and the person —slowly grew clear in my mind.
That process takes time, and I don’t do it anymore. Instead, I use a computer, like every other astrologer I know. With a computer, you can get an accurate chart without even thinking about math. Later in this chapter, I tell you how.
Still, the best way to understand astrology is to cast a chart the old-fashioned way. Here’s what you would need to calculate it yourself:
The precise longitude and latitude of your birthplace. You can figure it out from a map or look it up in a book like The American Atlas: U.S. Longitudes and Latitudes, Time Changes and Time Zones, by Thomas G. Shanks (ACS Publications), which includes an international atlas.
The details about your time of birth. Just because you know the exact moment of your birth doesn’t mean that your problems with time are over. You also have to know what time zone you were born in — and this is an area riddled with quicksand.
For instance, Tennessee is divided down the middle, half in one time zone and half in another. Most places in Texas observe central standard time — but El Paso doesn’t. And if you were born in Indiana between 1955 and 1965, you’re in deep trouble. During those years, the powers-that-be, unable to choose between central and eastern time, decided to carve up the state and assign different regions to each time zone. Each year, they did it in a different way. If you were caught in this civic calamity, you have no choice: Go to a professional astrologer. Or log on to one of the Web sites listed later in this chapter.
Then there’s daylight saving time. Until 2007, it ran from late April to late October, but the exact days differ from year to year and from state to state. For example, if you were born in California on October 27, 1963, you were born under daylight saving time. But if your birthday is a year later, on October 27, 1964, you were born under standard time.
And did you know that during World War II, the entire U.S. operated under war time? It began on February 9, 1942, about two months after Pearl Harbor, and ended on September 30, 1945. (It was also in operation in some places during World War I.)
To account for these variations in time, you need a trustworthy source. Again, I recommend The American Atlas: U.S. Longitudes and Latitudes, Time Changes and Time Zones, compiled by Thomas G. Shanks.
A table of houses. This book-size table tells you what degree of the zodiac is rising at any given moment according to the time and latitude of your birth. It also tells the degrees that appear on the other house cusps. One resource for this information is the Michelsen Book of Tables by Neil F. Michelsen (ACS Publications), which includes two popular types of house division as well as a worksheet for casting a horoscope the old-fashioned way.
An ephemeris for the year you were born. The Rosetta Stone of astrology, an ephemeris is an almanac that lists the positions of the Sun, Moon, and planets for every day of the year, either for midnight or noon in Greenwich, England (the basis for Greenwich mean time, from which all time zones are determined). So if you were born on the stroke of midnight in Greenwich, you don’t have to do a thing to determine the position of your planets. You can read them right out of the book.
If you were born at any other time or place, you have to make adjustments. Using an ephemeris, a table of houses, and the principles of high school algebra, you can come up with a close approximation of your chart. Should you insist on precision (perhaps because you have a dose of Virgo in your birth chart), you need one more item, which I explain in the following bullet.
A table of proportional logarithms. Using this numerical chart makes your calculations precise. But if going to the mat with a table of logarithms sounds like a fight you won’t win, do yourself a favor: Skip the calculations and go directly to the Internet.
To get your hands on any of these books, go to a well-stocked astrological or New Age bookstore — if you can find one. Or check out The Astrology Center of America at www.astroamerica.com. The folks who run this place have virtually everything (including software), and they comment on much of it, so you can do a little comparison shopping right there. Plus, if you’re intrigued by Tarot cards, you’ll enjoy this site, which lets you peek into about a hundred different decks. Contact The Astrology Center of America via the Web, by phone at (410) 638-7761, or at 207 Victory Lane, Bel Air, MD 21014.
The easiest way to get an accurate copy of your horoscope is to log on to the Internet, go to one of the sites in the following list, and type in the date, year, time, and place of your birth. Here are three of the best sites to visit:
Astrolabe (www.alabe.com): Astrolabe offers an excellent, free birth chart along with about three pages of interpretation. Feed your birth date into their form, send it off, and seconds later, it comes back to you, complete — and I mean complete. In contrast to other Web sites with seemingly similar offers, Astrolabe supplies not only some basic interpretation but also an image of the actual chart, with the Sun, Moon, and planets placed clearly within the zodiac wheel. Astrolabe also offers other services, for which you have to pay.
Astrodienst (www.astro.com): You can get a free birth chart (or “portrait”) at this absorbing Web site — and lots more, including lengthy daily horoscopes, a report on “love, flirtation, and sex,” a relationship chart and analysis, and a six-month forecast based on the changing position — or transits (see Chapter 16) — of the planets. All these freebies are abbreviated versions of longer reports you can buy. I don’t have a problem with that. The only missing ingredient here is that your actual chart — the round emblem that suggests a personal mandala — is not shown. You have to construct it yourself. (I show you how in Chapter 3.)
Chaos Astrology (www.chaosastrology.com): The free birth chart offered at this Web site is longer than most — plus, it includes the actual chart, if you know where to look. The trick is simple: After you feed in your birth information and your astrological profile appears on the screen, click on the sun/moon icon at the top of the page. Lo and behold: Your actual birth chart appears.
Nothing in the astrological world is more fun than being able to cast accurate charts for anyone at a moment’s notice. Astrological do-it-yourself software is endlessly diverting. It enables you to calculate natal charts, compare charts, determine how the planets may affect you in the future, and, in short, entertain yourself for hours. Software isn’t cheap, but if you decide it’s worth the expense, the following sections give you a few recommendations.
If you use a Macintosh (as I do, and I’m not backing down), you have only two choices:
Io Programs: Time Cycles Research Programs offers a wide selection of software which includes the following:
• Io Edition, their core program, which does all manner of calculations but offers no analysis.
• Io Interpreter, which provides interpretations and creates written reports. It’s available with a choice of modules, including Io Horoscope, the basic interpretation program; Io Child, which analyzes children; Io Relationship, which compares horoscopes; Io Forecast, which tells you what the future may hold; and Io Body and Soul, which suggests, among other things, what vitamins you ought to take.
• Io Detective, which allows you to research all kinds of cosmic phenomenon in the charts of thousands of famous people.
• Io Midnight Ephemeris, which provides a full ephemeris page for every month between January 1850 and December 2049.
Io programs cater to professionals. I’ve been using them for years, but they’re expensive (about $200 each) and complicated. Reach the people at Time Cycles by phone at (800) 827-2240 or (860) 444-6641, by e-mail at [email protected], or on the Web at www.timecycles.com.
TimePassages: Astrograph Software designed this software as a universal starting point, appropriate for both beginners and professionals, and Mac advocates and PC fanatics. The top-of-the-line program, with a myriad of astrological functions you can play with, costs about the same as a single Io program, while the basic edition, which provides natal charts, compatibility charts, and two ways of forecasting the future, runs about $50. The savings are considerable.
This program is a lot of fun as well as an effective way to master the topic. Click on any element of a chart — a planet, a house cusp, an asteroid — and an explanation pops up. If you’re a newcomer to astrology, this product could be just what you’re looking for. Call (866) 77-ASTRO or go to www.astrograph.com, where you can download a free demo with over 200 celebrity charts, including Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, and J. K. Rowling. (To get the demo, click on any one of the software choices and then go to “Downloads.”) Even if you don’t spring for the software, you can get a free copy of your chart along with a mini-interpretation of the Sun and Moon placements. (Just click on Horoscopes and go to the bottom of the page, where you can create an account for free.)
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